February 2004 Archives
I've blogged Thomas Sowell before - good writer. Thanks to the Two Nervous Dogs website, I have a reason to blog about him again. Thomas lists a couple of random thoughts including: bq. My New Year's resolution is to stop trying to reason with unreasonable people. This should reduce my correspondence considerably. bq. Benedict Arnold was a war hero, wounded in battle -- before he turned against his country. Hitler was likewise a decorated and wounded veteran of the First World War. Being a war hero is not a lifetime "get out of jail free" card, exempting you from responsibility for what you do thereafter. bq. Activism is a way for useless people to feel important, even if the consequences of their activism are counterproductive for those they claim to be helping and damaging to the fabric of society as a whole. And he also points to this wonderful article in City Journal -- "We’re Not Losing the Culture Wars Anymore" by Brian C. Anderson. I like the Activism comment - Heh...
From BBC comes the story of a South African tycoon who wants to spend 500 million UK pounds and build a new Titanic - bigger and better. He is planning to buld it at the shipyards of Harland and Wolff, Belfast where the original Titanic was built. bq. The new Titanic would not be an exact replica but would have the same external lines and levels of luxury. bq. 'Magical name' Former Belfast Lord Mayor, Assemblyman Dr Ian Adamson, who had discussions with Mr Gous on his previous visit, said: "This is not a pipe-dream. bq. "The magic of the Titanic name would make this the cruise ship the rich and famous would want to sail on. bq. "Cruising is the last resort of the millionaire in the 21st century, but all cruise ships seem to look the same. bq. "Titanic II, bigger and better than the original, but with its own famous grand staircase and luxury, would be a winner." Cool - it would be popular and the original Titanic was a gorgeous ship.
There is more info on Kerry's service in Vietnam. A big hat tip to L.G.F. for this link to a New York Sun article by Thomas Lipscomb. Mr. Lipscomb recently published a book: "On Watch" by Admiral Elmo R. Zumwalt Jr. so he has passing familiarity with the times plus access to source material. Mr. Lipscom comments on a quote from former assistant secretary of defense and Fletcher School of Diplomacy professor, W. Scott Thompson: bq. "The fabled and distinguished chief of naval operations,Admiral Elmo Zumwalt,told me — 30 years ago when he was still CNO —that during his own command of U.S. naval forces in Vietnam,just prior to his anointment as CNO, young Kerry had created great problems for him and the other top brass,by killing so many non-combatant civilians and going after other non-military targets.‘We had virtually to straitjacket him to keep him under control,’ the admiral said. ‘Bud’ Zumwalt got it right when he assessed Kerry as having large ambitions — but promised that his career in Vietnam would haunt him if he were ever on the national stage.” And this statement was made despite the fact Zumwalt had personally pinned a Silver Star on Mr. Kerry. The article then goes on to observe: bq. Mr. Kerry was assigned to Swiftboat 44 on December 1, 1968. Within 24 hours, he had his first Purple Heart. Mr. Kerry accumulated three Purple Hearts in four months with not even a day of duty lost from wounds, according to his training officer. It’s a pity one cannot read his Purple Heart medical treatment reports which have been withheld from the public. The only person preventing their release is Mr. Kerry. President Bush has been forthright in coming forward with records of his service. Shouldn't Mr. Kerry be doing the same thing?
We are heading up to the property tonight and coming back sometime Sunday afternoon. Things to do: Attend a class on tree grafting on Saturday. Sleep in on Sunday. More info can be found on our other website: Brown Snout
As I wrote about the other day here, an ex British cabinet minister has claimed that England was bugging the offices of Kofi Annan. My comment in that entry was this: bq. Where are the UN Security people? Don�t they sweep rooms on a regular basis? I would think that something as diplomatically sensitive as Koffi�s office would be swept weekly if not daily� Well, it turns out that Kofi's predecessor (as reported by the Times Online): bq. Boutros Boutros Ghali, the former UN Secretary-General, had his clothes, attach� case and office checked before beginning his working day, according to the official who served with him. The article goes on: bq. Mr Boutros Ghali who was UN Secretary-General between 1992 and 1996, admitted that he had had to be ultra-cautious about bugging operations against him. �From the first day I entered my office they said, beware, your office is bugged, your residence is bugged and it is a tradition that the member states who have the technical capacity to bug will do it without any hesitation,� he told BBC Today. bq. He added: �That would include permanent members of the Security Council, that would include members which have the technical capacity. The perception was that you must know in advance that your office, your residence, your car, your phone is bugged.� What we are seeing is another failure of the UN to adequately deal with its own security. This case (if it actually happened) is just as bad as the UN security failure that led up to the bombing of their Baghdad offices a few months ago. There (as I wrote about here) they hired people they knew when they last visited Iraq under from Saddam's regime. Unfortunately, these people were ex-Baath party thugs who had every interest in destabilizing the peace and getting the Westerners out of Iraq. So they paid lip-service to the UN but allowed terrorists to get close enough to tbe building to cause serious damage. Stupid stupid fools... They cannot even assure their own security and here they posture on the world stage saying that they are the only ones who should ensure global security. Bleagghh...
From the Straits Times: bq. Death for Tokyo nerve gas attack Aum cult leader wanted to rule Japan and is behind 'brutal' crimes that killed 27, including the 1995 attack in the subway bq. After a lengthy trial that transfixed the nation, former cult guru Shoko Asahara was yesterday sentenced to hang for the 1995 deadly nerve gas attack on Tokyo's subway system and other crimes. bq. The presiding judge called Asahara's crimes, which claimed 27 lives, 'merciless, vicious and brutal'. bq. He said the Aum doomsday cult leader had desired to 'rule Japan and become a king' after an embarrassing defeat in national elections. One sick puppy and someone who well deserves to be put down. His plea: bq. He has denied any guilt, claiming that his followers, who perpetrated the killings, had misunderstood his teachings and he had lost control over them. bq. But 11 senior cult members, who have already been given death sentences, have all fingered him as the mastermind behind the killings. Right - it was my underlings, my minions. They didn't obey my orders... Reminds me of Peter Anspach's Evil Overlord List
Things are getting interesting over there. From SFGate comes this story: bq. The Palestinian mayor of Nablus has resigned, citing frustrations over rising lawlessness in the West Bank's largest city. bq. Mayor Ghassan Shakaa told The Associated Press he has submitted his resignation to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to protest inaction by Palestinian leaders and security forces to stop the chaos. And more: bq. "I have submitted my resignation to President Arafat because I see my city collapsing and I don't want to stand idly by and watch this collapse," Shakaa said. "My resignation is a warning bell to the Palestinian Authority and the residents of Nablus, because both of them are doing nothing for this city." And in other news, Arafat had a bit of a temper tantrum yesterday. From The Jerusalem Post: bq. Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat stormed out of a meeting of the Fatah revolutionary council Thursday, following a shouting match with security adviser, Nasser Yussef, regarding security reforms, reported IBA news Friday morning. bq. Yussef questioned Palestinian security forces ability to function efficiently without reforms. bq. "You traitor, spy, shut your mouth, you have no right to talk," Arafat was quoted as shouting to Yousef before hurling a microphone at him. And more about the Fatah Revolutionary Council: (Great 1950's Soviet Marxist name by the way - really shows Arafat's origins and training (Fatah means gateway or path)) bq. The 126-member Fatah revolutionary council, Fatah's second highest body, is supposed to meet every three months. Wednesday, it convened for the first time in three years for a three-day meeting in an effort to solve the crisis resulting from the recent resignation of scores of activists. bq. They resigned over what they said is widespread corruption among the old guard and armed street patrols by para-militaries.
David Frum at National Review weighs in with eight solid questions to ask people who are proposing State-based provision for same-sex marraige when no such provision exists on a Federal level or in many other States. The point being: bq. I ask these questions to drive home this point: Americans may live in states, but they conduct their financial and legal lives in a united country bound by interstate institutions. bq. If a couple gets married in Massachusetts and that marriage goes truly unrecognized by any entity outside the state � well then the Massachusetts wedding ceremony is just a form of words, as meaningless as the illegal weddings now being performed in San Francisco. If you�re not married outside Massachusetts, then you are not really married inside Massachusetts either. Well put...
There is a short but nice interview with Peter Jackson at CNN/Entertainment Next movie - King Kong: bq. It's based on the 1933 movie, and we will follow that basic plot and narrative structure. We will obviously be writing much more depth into the characters -- approaching it as a drama rather than fantasy. We pretend the 1976 version doesn't exist. Regrets over anything in LOTR: bq. I don't have regrets -- only a rather stunned disbelief at what has transpired. Ask me in five years. Heh...
As reported by Yahoo/Business I use both companies products and they are both great. Tucows also has the DominDirect domain registration service as an alternative to NetworkSolutions. Cheaper and much easier to administer accounts. I use Blogrolling to maintain the list of favorite other websites you see on the right. It will be a good fit - Blogrolling can use Tucows server space and it will be a nice revenue stream for Tucows.
It was noted by many in the blogosphere a few days ago that the Supreme Commission for Tourism in Saudi Arabia had a website saying who could and who could not enter Saudi Arabia for tourism. Among the list of excluded persons are: (I am excerpting from a longer list) bq. Visas will not be issued for the following groups of people: bq. An Israeli passport holder or a passport that has an Israeli arrival/departure stamp. bq. Jewish People bq. Important Instructions: bq. If a woman is arriving in the Kingdom alone, the sponsor or her husband must receive her at the airport. bq. Every woman must have confirmed accommodation for the duration of her stay in the Kingdom. bq. A woman is not allowed to drive a car and can therefore only travel by car if she is accompanied by her husband, a male relative, or a driver. The website underwent a swift revision. Here is the link to the old website -- cached by Google Here is the link to the new website Sort of reminds me of this incident where Mercedes and BMW had maps to their dealers in the Middle East and one map showed Israel labeled as Palestine and the other one didn't have it at all... And of course, we mustn't forget our own State Department's map of the area.
From Yahoo/Reuters: bq. Two new species of dinosaur, one a quick-moving meat-eater and the other a giant plant-eater, have been discovered in Antarctica, U.S. researchers said on Thursday. bq. The 70 million-year-old fossils of the carnivore would have rested for millenniums at the bottom of an Antarctic sea, while remains of the 100-foot-long herbivore were found on the top of a mountain. Very interesting - we know so little about 99% of that continent. There are a few areas that have been well explored but the inland is virtually unknown. Fascinating place. For a wonderful insight into scientific life there, check out Kim Stanley Robinson's 1998 book Antarctica - he was invited to spend a season as a visiting artist and so got a good insight into the culture.
From the Orlando Florida Local6 comes this story: bq. Sheriff's deputies said Glen Schibley, 83, was working in his yard at 5459 Brosche Road in Orlando Monday when he fell and was unable to get up. bq. When his wife, Harriet, 79, found Glen on the ground, he instructed her not to get help and that he would take care of his situation, Local 6 News reported. bq. The man's wife left him in the yard but continued to care for him for three days by covering him up in a tarp during rainstorms and bringing food and water. Sheesh! I would have called the ambulance after 45 minutes or so. Three days?
These have both been around for a while but they are worth looking at if you have not seen them. Item one is Philip Greenspun's: "Philip and Alex's Guide to Web Publishing" Item two is John Walker's: "The Autodesk File" Philip is the guiding light behind the amazing photography resource Photo.Net The Autodesk Files are a collection of communications from the company -- internal, to clients, press releases, etc...dating from 1982 to 1994. Fascinating insight into a very non-traditional company that is none the less, an industry leader.
From the Crumb Trail comes a story that I blogged about last November. Back40 looks at this from another angle though - one looking at the basic toxicity of all potatoes, not just GE ones. bq. A few years ago an obscure researcher named Arpad Pusztai got his 15 minutes of fame by publishing the results of some experiments he performed on rats and touting them in the popular press. His experiments were designed to show that genetically engineered potatoes were toxic to rats and by implication humans too since humans are quite a lot like rats. But his study was debunked and he lost his job. His work was sloppy and his data was suspect, but the most interesting part was that the rats fed only GE potato extracts had such a poor diet that they would have been deathly ill even if the potatoes were not GE. bq. So much so standard and boring in the junk science GE wars. But potatoes are worrisome for other reasons. All potatoes contain "toxic glycoalkaloids (GAs) that cause sporadic outbreaks of poisoning in humans, as well as many livestock deaths". They are a member of the nightshade family of plants, some of which are very toxic, but so are other common foods such as tomato, eggplant and bell peppers. A recent study discusses the effects, ways to detect GAs and ways to breed low GA cultivars. Interesting reading...
From CNN: bq. France has made a new appeal for Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to resign after talks with a Haitian government team and called for urgent moves to stop the situation getting out of control. bq. A statement from the French foreign ministry, referring to Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin, said: "The minister recalled that President Aristide bears a heavy responsibility in the current situation and that he should draw the conclusions from the impasse." Emphasis mine - well put! You make your bed now you lie in it...
Friday and time for another wonderful essay by Victor Davis Hanson. Don't miss the profile of him in the LA Times This week he is talking about the vocabulary of anit-Americanism. bq. Words that Don�t Matter The new buzz vocabulary of anti-Americanism. bq. "Preemption" is supposed to be the new slur. Its use now conjures up all sorts of Dr. Strangelove images to denigrate the present "trigger-happy" Bush administration.... -- ...we have had two years now of national frenzy over a purported new "dangerous departure" in American foreign policy, one that "threatens" to "destabilize" the world order. bq. Rubbish. Preemption is a concept as old as the Greeks. It perhaps was first articulated in the fourth book of Thucydides's history. There the veteran Theban general Pagondas explained why his Boeotians should hit the Athenians at the border near Delium, even though they were already retreating and posed no immediate threat. The Boeotians did, and won � and were never attacked by the Athenians again. On a more immediate level, preemption was how many of us stayed alive in a rather tough grade school: Confront the bully first, openly, and in daylight � our Texan principal warned us � before he could jump you as planned in the dark on the way home. He goes on to give other examples of pre-emption in history: bq. Serbia posed no "imminent" threat to the United States in 1998; but President Clinton � with no U.N. sanction, no U.S. Congress resolution � finally decided to act and end that cancer before it spread beyond the Balkans. And more: bq. The Left's problem is not our embrace of the concept of "unilateralism" per se � or it would have attacked Clinton's U.N.-be-damned use of force in Iraq, Kosovo, and Haiti. And more: bq. If the embrace of multilateralism is meant to imply the desirability of U.N. sanction, then it is just as dubious a moral concept. Ask the Cambodians, Rwandans, Bosnians, or Kosovars whether they were encouraged by "multilateral" U.N. resolutions of "concern." In the last 40 years almost half the U.N.'s resolutions have been aimed at Israel � in an era when that body watched silently as tens of millions were butchered around the globe. Only a unilateral United States organized vetoes against Yasser Arafat's array of "Zionism is racism" resolutions. Usually the singular action of one democracy is worth more than all the majority votes of dozens of autocracies. Well done...
Transgenic Art -- the New Scientist has a fascinating interview with three artists who use transgenic materials for their art. bq. Why would you give a cactus human hair? Or grow wings for pigs? And as for redesigning the butterfly... Artists are appropriating biotechnology for their own ends. New Scientist tracked down three of them working in this wild new place: Laura Cinti, Oron Catts and Marta de Menezes. Here are some links to these artists exhibitions: Laura Cinti: The Cactus Project Oron Catts: Pig Wings Marta de Menezes: Butterfly
According to the BBC, Britian was suposedly spying on the UN's Kofi Annan -- planting listening devices in his offices. This was announced by ex-cabinet minister Claire Short. Of course, this is just her word againse everyone elses and she has been very much opposed to Tony Blair and England's participation in the war on terror. The other red flag that I see is; Where are the UN Security people? Don't they sweep rooms on a regular basis? I would think that something as diplomatically sensetive as Koffi's office would be swept weekly if not daily...
From DefenseTech comes a link to an article in Jane's Defense Weekly: bq. Pakistan's government is now trying to portray the sale of nuclear technology to Iran, Libya, and North Korea as the cloak-and-dagger work of a few, isolated rogues. bq. But that's a lie, says Jane's Defense Weekly, in a report released today. Nuclear sales were so out in the open that underlings of Abdul Qadeer Khan -- the father of the Pakistani Bomb -- were handing out glossy brochures advertising their services at a 2000 arms conference. Something that large and that expensive and that dependent on critical manufacturing resources would not be unknown to the government. They are starting to come clean but need to move faster still... Regime change anyone?
From ABC News: bq. A controversial associate of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has resigned from his seat on a key Pentagon advisory panel, ABCNEWS has learned. bq. Richard Perle, a lightning rod for critics of the Bush administration's national security policies, informed Rumsfeld more than two weeks ago he was quitting the Defense Policy Board. He confirmed the decision in a letter to the defense chief last Wednesday. bq. "We are now approaching a long presidential election campaign, in the course of which issues on which I have strong views will be widely discussed and debated," Perle wrote. "I would not wish those views to be attributed to you or the President at any time, and especially not during a presidential campaign." Perle is the guy who co-wrote the excellent book: "An End to Evil: How to Win the War on Terror". Although we need people like him in positions of power, it's good that he decided to step down -- this presidential campaign will be a close and nasty affair and none of the alternative candidates seem to be fit for office so George Bush needs to stay in place this time around. The war on terror is more important than his problems with domestic issues (the environment, the economy, gay rights)
her girlfriend in San Francisco. From SFGate: bq. Rosie O'Donnell flew across the country Thursday to marry her longtime girlfriend in the city where more than 3,300 other same-sex couples have tied the knot since Feb. 12. bq. The couple traveled to San Francisco from New York on Thursday morning, said Cindi Berger, O'Donnell's publicist. They have a 1 p.m. appointment to pick up a marriage license, according to the mayor's office. Cool - Bush is pissing me off when he came out with his proposed amendment.
Interesting under-reported news item from the BBC: bq. Astronomers have revealed how they came within minutes of alerting the world to a potential asteroid strike last month. bq. Some scientists believed on 13 January that a 30m object, later designated 2004 AS1, had a one-in-four chance of hitting the planet within 36 hours. bq. It could have caused local devastation and the researchers contemplated a call to President Bush before new data finally showed there was no danger. And more: bq. ...word reached the astronomical community of an asteroid that had just been discovered by the twin optical telescopes of the Linear automated sky survey in New Mexico. bq. The object was expected to grow 40-times brighter in the next day - a possible sign that it was getting closer, very rapidly. bq. But with data from just four observations available, the uncertainties were large. There were many possible orbits the object could be on, and the majority of them did not threaten the Earth. We have been hit before and will be hit again.
Things are looking better and better for Libya -- from Yahoo/AP news: bq. The United States lifted a long-standing ban on travel to Libya on Thursday and invited American companies to begin planning their return, after Moammar Gadhafi's government affirmed that it was responsible for the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 in 1988. bq. The administration also encouraged Libya to establish an official presence in Washington by opening an "interests section," a diplomatic office a level beneath an embassy. The United States also will expand its diplomatic presence in Tripoli. bq. The White House announcement rescinded travel restrictions that have been in place for 23 years against Libya, a country which the United States had long branded a sponsor of state terrorism. Sending a very clear message to other nations -- if you deal square with us, we will deal square with you. Libya was a major player in terrorism, Gadhafi saw the writing on the wall and decided to join the modern world. Libya will be much better off for it. It will be interesting to see what transpires in other nations in that area.
I used to have a bumper sticker that said: "Picard/Riker 2000" Still think that would be a most excellent combination...
Possibility of a cool display for this spring in the northern hemisphere. As reported by Space.com bq. A pair of comets that astronomers have been monitoring for several months could become plainly visible in the night sky this spring. Each comet is currently visible in telescopes. Scientists can't say for sure how bright they will get, but there is some optimism that both might reflect enough sunlight to be visible to the unaided eye at the same time. And more: bq. "If they brighten as predicted, then both may be visible to the naked eye in late April and part of May," said Dan Green, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) and director of the Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams, which monitors comet observations among other things. bq. It would be unusual for two comets to be visible in the sky at once. The objects are catalogued as C/2001 Q4 (NEAT) and C/2002 T7 (LINEAR). I remember seeing one very bright one in the early 1970's - very awesome sight!
From Shark Blog comes a link to a Haaretz Daily article: Basically, some IDF and Shin Bet forces: bq. Security forces on Wednesday raided four banks in the West Bank city of Ramallah, seizing the money which Israel said was mostly sent by Iran, Syria and Hezbollah to fund Palestinian militants. The funds total about $4.5 million in cash. Emphasis mine. Israel has announced that the funds will be used: bq. Israeli security sources said the seized money would be used to fund Palestinian humanitarian projects. Very appropriate. You know, if the Palestinian Arabs wanted peace, they could have it tomorrow but they continue to work to eradicate Israel. This must stop.
President Bush Rebuffs Aristide, Warns Haitians -- CNN writes: bq. President Bush on Wednesday rebuffed Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's appeal for immediate security assistance to head off a rebel advance and warned Haitians not to flee to the United States. bq. Aristide, trying to fend off a bloody revolt against his presidency by insurgents, had appealed for international help for his outgunned police. But Bush was insistent that peacekeepers only be sent once a political settlement to the crisis was reached. bq. The United States has been criticized for doing too little to staunch the chaos in the poorest nation in the Americas. U.S. officials have emphasized negotiation and said security forces should be sent only after violence abates. Critics fear waiting for a peace deal will allow more chaos. And more: bq. "What the United States does not want to do is to simply prop up the status quo in an anti-democratic government led by Mr. Aristide...What the United States wants to see in Haiti is all of the political parties continuing in a profound and serious dialogue," said Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, a Florida Republican. bq. Florida Republican Rep. Mark Foley said the countries involved in trying to arrange a deal were saying behind the scenes that "we will not send people to that nation if it is under the intention of propping up Aristide's government." This is very much the way to handle this. I feel bad for all the civilians caught up in the chaos but Aristide mis-managed the nation, living off USA Foreign Aid and growing fat while his nation suffered. If he is starting to feel the pinch of payback time, let him broker a new position for himself or get the hell out of the way and let someone else have a try at running the nation. The potential for a rich nation is there - agriculture and tourism fuel the Dominican Republic next door. Time to go...
From CNN comes a chilling story about ear piercing and possible dangers: bq. Piercing the upper ear sometimes results in hard-to-treat infections that can lead to permanent disfigurement, according to a study of an Oregon outbreak. bq. Seven youngsters ages 10 to 19 developed infections after getting their thin upper-ear cartilage pierced at a jewelry kiosk in Klamath Falls, Oregon, in 2000. Doctors documented 18 other suspected cases linked to the store. The kids caught a Pseudomonas aeruginosa infection from a bottle of disinfectant of all things. The problem with the upper ear is that there are very few blood vessels so once an infection gets lodged in there, regular oral antibiotics don't work -- the tissue has to be 'excised' Wonderful...
Interesting article on Crumb Trail about Sugar, Subsidies and Tariffs and Robbing Peter to pay Paul... bq. Sugar Rush There's an interesting and informative post at Knowledge Problem primarily about sugar subsidies and the ripple effects they have on industries that use sugar, such as candy makers. The post quotes a Town Hall column by Walter Williams. bq. Town Hall: Chicago has been home to many of America's candy manufacturers, but today they've fallen on hard times. In 1970, employment by Chicago's candy manufacturers totaled 15,000, and now it's 8,000 and falling. Brach used to employ about 2,300 people; now most of its jobs are in Mexico. Ferrara Pan Candy has also moved much of its production to Mexico. Yes, wages are lower in Mexico, but wages aren't the only factor in candy manufacturers' flight from America. After all, Life Savers, which for 90 years manufactured in America, has moved to Canada, where wages are comparable to ours. And back to Crumb Trail: bq. Robbing Peter to pay Paul. Subsidies to one industry to "save jobs" etc. costs jobs in another. The sugar production industry has done a better job lobbying congress for support than the candy industry. But sugar import quotas to keep out cheaper sugar from other countries are much more important than subsidies. Expensive sugar would have no market in the US if imports were not restricted. The criticism, while useful, is poorly targeted and differs from the more common effect of subsidies in lowering commodity prices below production costs to freeze out foreign competition and provide world markets for excess production. Interesting thoughts - back40 (Crumb Trail's author) goes into some other thoughts and provides some links. This also ties into the use of High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFS) and the huge subsidies that companies like Archer Daniels Midland are given to bring this product to market. The Hawai'ian sugar industry tanked because of this - very few cane producers there now.
Open source Graphics software has been kinda lame except for a couple major projects. One of these is the GNU Image Manipulation Program or GIMP. It's a "Photoshop-like" program for painting, manipulating and editing images. Version 2.0 is due next month and Brice Burgess at NewsForge takes a sneak look at it complete with screenshots. bq. A monumental change in GIMP 2.0 is a much-improved text tool. The new tool boasts enhanced font selection and allows for multi-line entries. All changes are immediately reflected on the canvas, making it much easier for designers to preview their text within the image context. Further, you can export text as a path in order to tweak its shape, fill style, or scale. Other new features: bq. The rewritten path tool is more intuitive and functional than before. You can export paths to scalable vector graphic (SVG) format, allowing you to import them into vector-based programs such as Adobe Illustrator. The Undo tool has become a favorite of mine. With it, you're now given an overview of the steps (such as selections, fills, and moves) that make up the image, along with the state and a preview of the image as a consequence of a particular step. You can navigate the steps forward and backward in order to return to any point in the editing process. This is an absolute essential for a positive imaging session. Additionally, the "Fill with FG/BG color" choice in the edit menu has a preview of the currently loaded foreground and background colors, so you don't have to look to remember what colors you're working with. Cool stuff! Also, if you are into working with animations, check out CinePaint. This started as a fork from GIMPs development, was initially called Film Gimp and is basically a GIMP that handles batch commands on a sequentially numbered set of files (frames in your video). It supports all of the high-resolution HDTV and Film formats.
Charles at L.G.F. points to a great writeup on a favorite author of mine -- Victor Davis Hanson. From the LA Times: bq. For Hanson, ancient reports on the Peloponnesian War are just as relevant today as recent Fox network newscasts on a suicide bombing of a Baghdad hotel. Both, Hanson believes, portray a do-or-die "referendum" on clashing cultures: the democratic republicanism of Athens versus the martial oligarchy of Sparta; the secular, "consensual" democracy of the West versus the theocratic dictatorship of militant Islam. And more: bq. "We haven't had enemies this antithetical to the United States in a long, long time," Hanson said several days later over coffee in San Francisco, where he was a guest speaker at the Commonwealth Club. "Take your pick of the Western agenda. Women's rights? They want to go back to the Dark Ages. Homosexual rights? They want to kill them. Democracy? They don't believe in it. Religious tolerance? You're dead if you're not a Muslim. Technology? They don't like it." And more: bq. For a while, Hanson, his wife, Cara, and their three children, now ages 22, 21 and 17, supplemented the family's meager income by selling fruit from a van at street markets in Monterey and Carmel. "One time, the van broke down and we had to drive for six hours in first gear," Hanson said. The couple made all their own preserves and ate only the food they grew or traded for with other farmers. bq. Nearly broke, and deaf in one ear from operating heavy farm equipment, Hanson took jobs tutoring Latin and finally, in 1985, convinced the Cal State Fresno administration to create a classics department. After making less than $6,000 a year as a raisin farmer, Hanson saw his fortunes, supplemented by revenue from his books and frequent paid speaking dates, slowly grow while the family farmers' did not. bq. "I was in the richest agricultural area in the world, and I was going broke farming," Hanson recalled. "And I was in the most intellectually arid place and made money from classicism. So weird." Great profile of a great author. An archive of his Friday National Review articles can be found here. It's worth checking out.
This is something I have blogged about before here, here, here and here... Anyway, Roger L. Simon also is curious and today, he has an entry that brings new information to light: bq. Enron on the East River (UPDATED) I hate to be so "hobby-horsical" in the words of the great Laurence Sterne about the continued non-investigation of the UN Oil-for-Food scandal, but it seems to me if we're fighting a War on Terror, which is really a War on Fascism in its various forms, we should be paying special attention to the lifeblood of that system, which is money. Greed and racism are its twin hearts. Roger points to a wonderful article by Claudia Rosset in the Wall Street Journal's online Opinion Journal. bq. Roger:Among the several "discrepancies," she catches was a new one for me involving a mere 5 billion dollars, which appeared in the sales totals on Oil-for-Food kept by the U. N. Compensation Commission offices in Geneva. Rosset puts this in perspective: bq. Claudia:"OK, but in some quarters, if not at the U.N., $5 billion here or there is big money. Halliburton has been pilloried, and rightly so, over questions involving less than 1% of such amounts." bq. Roger:Have they ever! The NYT et al were all over Halliburton like the proverbial you-know-what. But with all their powers of investigative journalism, as far as I know, the same papers haven't really approached the UN scandal, not in any serious way. You would think they might now because, as Rosset notes, the very David Kay they quote endlessly on the subject of WMDs has pronounced the program a "scam." Read them both.
Hat tip to the Michael Medved Fan Website for the link to this News Max book review. The book is also available from Amazon and some of the reviews on that website are of interest - some people mentioned in the book are quite annoyed at their portrayal... From the NewsMax review: bq. Slowly, the war has come back to haunt us. Legions of homeless Vietnam veterans are in streets, hundreds of thousands of them are suffering from Agent Orange or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and more of them have died from suicide than died in the war . . . or so the social advocates and the media tell us. bq. B.G. Burkett, in over ten years of research in the National Archives, filing hundreds of requests for military documents under the Freedom of Information Act, uncovered a massive distortion of history, a distortion than cost the U.S. taxpayers billions of dollars. Mr. Burkett's work has toppled national political leaders and put criminals in jail. bq. The authors show killers who have fooled the most astute prosecutors and gotten away with murder, phony heroes who have become the object of award-winning documentaries on national network television, and liars and fabricators who have flooded major publishing houses with false tales of heroism which have become best-selling biographies. Guess I'll have to give Amazon some more money - this looks really interesting.
Kind of fun -- here -- it's based on results from the Harvard Computer Society Dialect Survey of 30788 respondents.
Things are going to hell quickly in Haiti - SFGate has this article: bq. U.S. Marines escorted foreigners trying to flee Haiti's capital Wednesday as looting broke out and opposition leaders urged a "timely and orderly" departure of beleaguered President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. bq. President Bush warned that the U.S. Coast Guard would turn back any Haitian refugees trying to reach American shores. He said Washington still hoped for a political solution and was discussing a strong security presence in Haiti with the international community. bq. Opposition leaders rejected a U.S.-backed peace plan for Haiti that would have Aristide remain as president but share power with political rivals. bq. "It is absolutely necessary for the international community to accompany the country in its quest for a mechanism that will allow for a timely and orderly departure of Jean-Bertrand Aristide," the Democratic Platform coalition said in a statement. I had blogged about it here earlier - this is Aristide's policies coming home to roost. As I said in the earlier entry, Haiti and the Dominicain Republic share roughly equal parts of the island of Hispaniola. The DRs economy is good, their infant mortality rate is one-third of Haiti's, their Gross Domestic Product is growing at 4.1% whereas Haiti's is shrinking at -0.9%. Want to let your country and your people slide down the tubes while you live in style? Fine, just remember that payback is a bitch...
Interesting news from the Houston Chronicle: bq. The photo dates to 1886 and is of an older man wearing a plain suit and small bow tie. He has light eyes, a well-kept beard and a thin, long nose. His hair is neatly combed back, and he has a distinct widow's peak. bq. "I saw it and thought it was van Gogh right away, and the more I looked at it, the more I was sure," said artist Tom Stanford, who discovered the photograph while flipping through an album of cabinet card photographs (mostly of clergymen dating back to the late 19th century) at an antiques dealer's shop in Massachusetts. bq. He bought the photograph for $1 and then immediately took it to photo historian Joseph Buberger, who has previously worked with photographs of Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant and Gen. Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson. And more: bq. Buberger said he believes it is entirely possible that van Gogh drew and painted his self-portraits based on the photograph. He points to the time period -- van Gogh did most of his self-portraits at the time the photograph was taken -- as evidence. Also, after searching through databases, Buberger matched the photographer's name, "Victor Morin," which is printed on the front of the photograph, with an old studio in Brussels, where van Gogh spent much of his time. Interesting - the article also states that there are only two known photographs of Van Gogh but that they may well be of his brother Theo since the photos do not match Van Gogh's self portraits. Quite a bit of history to be buying for one dollar...
Good discussion on the Hydrogen Economy over at Kuro5hin The author starts off by examining the pros and cons of Hydrogen. They then wind up with this analysis: bq. The advantages of the hydrogen economy, i.e. solving the environmental issues with fossil fuels and independence of dwindling oil reserves and the volatile nations that sell most of it, can be achieved much cheaper with an energy economy based on biomass based or synthetic diesel. Another major advantage of this is that no major infrastructure investments are needed for the storage and transportation of the fuel, as the current energy infrastructure is well equipped to handle it. As Bio/synthetic diesel production ramps up it can be blended with petroleum diesel, providing a smooth transition away from fossil fuels. Similarly, in the future when fuel cells equipped with (internal or external) reformers become more competitive than diesel engines, the transition to fuel cells is smooth because they can use the same fuel. There are reader comments at the end of this -- these are also worth checking out. Good stuff!
The Washington State Department of Revenue is having the James G. Murphy auction company sell off its collection of unclaimed Safe Deposit Box materials. These are items that have been abandoned. Lots of interesting stuff here - it will be a royal zoo - I like going to auctions and there is a large difference between a professional crowd and an amateur one. This will be amateur hour and people will not know how to bid and will be bidding waaay to much for some items. Still, for the historical value, it would be fun to attend and you can probably pick up some neat stuff for a couple bucks if you don't mind the crowds...
From Forbes magazine comes this story: bq. Qwest to offer DSL without voice, national mobile Qwest Communications International Inc. will reveal plans on Wednesday to become the first major U.S. telephone company offering broadband Internet separately from traditional phone services in a bid to hang onto customers in a cutthroat market. bq. The fourth biggest U.S. local telephone company and the dominant provider in 14 states from Minnesota to Washington also plans to launch flat-rate nationwide mobile phone services, using Sprint PCS's network next Monday. And more: bq. From Saturday Qwest customers will not need to pay the company's monthly telephone service fees of $14.95 if they only want to subscribe to its broadband or Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) customers in a service it nicknamed "Naked DSL". bq. Local phone providers such as Verizon require DSL customers to also subscribe to at least basic telephone services. This is a good start - there is no reason why the DSL service has to be coupled to the telephone account, it's only a marketing policy set by the phone company. The problem here is that the standard US Corporate business model is based on continued growth and not on a steady-state revenue generation. The phone business has pretty much saturated the market with cell and landlines so they are starting to shuffle around to find ways to corner various bits of the market. Look at the recent proposed buyout of Cingular.
Strange and wonderful Chemistry Website Learn about Arsole, Megaphone, Cummingtonite, Moronic Acid and many more...
From Microsoft-Watch comes the report that Service Pack 2 will be "like a whole new operating system" bq. Service Pack 2 (SP2) � due out around mid-2004, according to Microsoft's timetable � will include so many new features that it is practically a new version of Windows. Some Microsoft executives have admitted as much. bq. SP2 will include a number of features and fixes aimed expressly at improving the security of the now-three-year-old Windows XP. With SP2, Microsoft is turning on its built-in firewall by default; including new browser and e-mail safeguards; enhancing XP's memory protection features, company officials have said. Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates showed off many of these features during his RSA security conference keynote on Tuesday. Running the beta at home and it looks good (I'm a Microsoft Alumnus and get a subscription to TechNet). Just building out the computer its on so nothing to report yet about the applications but it seems nice and stable.
From the Department of Defense comes this news: bq. The Department of Defense announced today that Guantanamo detainees Ali Hamza Ahmed Sulayman al Bahlul of Yemen and Ibrahim Ahmed Mahmoud al Qosi of Sudan have been charged with conspiracy to commit war crimes and will be tried by military commission. bq. Al Bahlul is alleged to be a key al Qaida propagandist who produced videos glorifying the murder of Americans to recruit, inspire, and motivate other al Qaida members to continue attacks against Americans, the United States, and other countries, as well as serving as a bodyguard for Usama bin Laden. Al Qosi is alleged to be a key al Qaida accountant, bin Laden bodyguard, and weapons smuggler. He is alleged to be a long-time assistant and associate of bin Laden, dating back to the time when bin Laden lived in Sudan. bq. Charges can be found in these two PDF files: Al Qosi and Al Bahlul The DOD press release then goes on to talk about Military Commissions: bq. Military commission procedures include: the presumption of innocence; a requirement for proof of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt; representation by a military defense counsel free of charge with the option to retain a civilian defense counsel at no expense to the U.S. government; an opportunity to present evidence and call witnesses; and a prohibition against drawing an adverse inference if an Accused chooses not to testify. Military commissions have historically been used to try violations of the law of armed conflict and related offenses. Nasty pieces of work - it will be good to get them tried and to expose to the world what they did...
Few people give much thought to the keyboards on their computers but this is one area where ergonomics plays a big role. Back in the stone ages of personal computing, IBM developed a 'buckling spring' technology that gave by far the best touch of any keyboard out there. It fell out of favor when the Graphical User Interface and the Mouse arrived on people's desktops - people typed a lot less, keyboard touch was less critical and the expense of the buckling spring mechanism made cheaper 'rubber dome' keyboards more attractive. Two keyboard companies remain in people's hearts - IBM and Northgate. Fortunately, although both companies have gone through buy-outs and business changes, they are still making keyboards. IBM spun off their keyboards and printers to Lexmark. Lexmark sold the keyboard business to Unicomp. Unicomp operates the PCKeyboard website and sells their products (as well as replacement parts for older keyboards) online. Northgate went out of business and its assets were eventually acquired by Creative Vision Technologies A good look at keyboard technology can be found on Dan's Data website.
From Microsoft Research Labs comes a project that allows you to view a 3D image of Mars without needing any special glasses or eye crossing. It's an animated pan done with their algorithms. This is not a QTVR panorama, this is actual 3D - you see the effects of parallax in the image as it moves.
After being in the vaults for 37 years, Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys will be releasing his answer to Sgt. Peppers. As reported by Pitchfork Media: bq. Recorded between April 1966 and May 1967, SMiLE (working title Dumb Angel) was to be Brian Wilson's "teenage symphony to God," an album that would at once best the Beatles and surpass Wilson's latest masterpiece, Pet Sounds. Working with avant-garde lyricist Parks and the session players featured on Pet Sounds, Wilson crafted the album away from the other Beach Boys, who were then touring. Upon their return from the tour, the group met the album with mixed feelings, arguing that SMiLE's obscure lyrics and insanely dense compositions strayed too far from the norm to be considered for release. Cool!
Not a geek alive that doesn't recognize that name: IMSAI This was the first "big" personal computer - one that could be put into a business as well as serve a home 'hobbyist'. Lots of front panel switches and lights -- these were used to manually step through various address and read and write the data at those locations. Initially, you needed to enter about 30 steps worth of program this way before it could recognize a peripheral such as disk drive or tape reader. Fischer and Freitas are two other names that geeks will recognize and they have re-engineered and reissued the IMSAI. Very cool design in that it still takes the standard S-100 cards (I still have my original 300 baud Dennis C. Hayes modem - the first product they made) but there is room in the back for an ATX motherboard. The S-100 section is powered by a modern chip - the Zilog 20 MHZ. Z8S180 Processor- 1 Meg direct addressing (organized as sixteen 64K "pages"), code compliant with Z80 extended instruction set so you can run all the CP/M software but at a blazing 20MHz. And yes, the switches and blinkey lights all work... Looking at about $1,400 for the full version (you still need the ATX motherboard).
A bunch of bloggers covered this one. Chomsky wrote this anti-US, anti-Israel Editorial and the NY Times published it. This coming one day after palestinian Arab terrorists blew up a bus killing eight people and wounding 60. Charles at L.G.F. calls it thus: bq. New York Times Hits New Low Words fail me. bq. Noam Chomsky is now a New York Times op-ed columnist, with a rabid anti-Israel screed that the Times publishes one day after Palestinians murder a bus full of children. (and read some of the comments left on his site regarding this) Meanwhile, over at Roger L. Simon's blog, he does a wonderful analysis: bq. No one is more hidebound and predictable in our society today than the soi-disant leftwing academic (I doubt Marx would have thought much of them) of whom Noam Chomsky is the prime exemplar. Nothing, not even one phrase, let alone a full sentence, is ever surprising in what this man writes. It�s almost as if his essays were written by a computer program. Everything appears rehashed. And more: bq. I wonder with Chomsky whether he really cares for the Palestinian people. His comments seem mostly an exercise in narcissism. This is perhaps most clear when he speaks of water rights. These rights, he claims, will be deprived the Palestinians. Yet he says this in full knowledge that Palestinian Chairman Arafat is a multi-billionaire who, with all the aid money he has stolen, could provide the entire Palestinian population with Evian in perpetuity and have plenty left over. They also could have had a state with all or most of the land Chomsky says the Israelis are grabbing several years ago. Not to be left out of the fray, Iowahawk weighs in with what appears to be the first draft of this editorial. As Ian at Inoperable Terran says: " 8X drink alert " Oh yeah, the editorial if you want to read it is here. Save yourself the time though -- unless you are really into Chomsky.
B. Preston over at Junk Yard Blog has an interesting analysis of the bits and pieces of the Global Bomb making network that the US is gradually rolling up. The key issues are not surprising (a few designs used in bomb attacks in many countries indicating a traffiking in information and supplies) but the link to the 1995 Nichols/McVeigh Oklahoma bombing is: bq. Rolling up terror networks is as much art as science. One fragment leads to a source, who leads to more fragments and perhaps a cell, which leads further up the chain to commanders and cash networks. The science is obvious: Investigators gather data and sort it, classify it, catalogue it and understand it. The art comes in play as agents sift clues to determine where and how terrorists plan to strike, who is bankrolling and leading them, and how the whole thing shapes up. Inferences play as great a role as hard data, because the hard data you gather never amounts to completing the picture in all its shades and hues. And more: bq. So Mr. Murad was found in possession of a notebook with a new thought about truck bombs--substitute nitromethane for fuel oil to make them more powerful--and his notebook can be dated to a time when Terry Nichols was known to be in the Philippines, which was where Murad was arrested. And that very design change showed up first in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995, just a few months later. Interesting stuff with a couple links to additional resources... Go read...
Here is a write up of exactly what caused the problems with the Mars Rover and how they were fixed... In the EE Times: bq. When the Mars rover Spirit went dark on Jan.21 a Jet Propulsion Laboratory team undertook to reprogram the craft's computer only to find themselves introducing an unpredictable sequences of events. bq. The trouble with the Mars rover Spirit started much earlier in the mission than the day the craft stopped communicating with ground controllers. bq. "It was recognized just after [the June 2003] launch that there were some serious shortcomings in the code that had been put into the launch load of software," said JPL data management engineer Roger Klemm. "The code was reworked, and a complete new memory image was uploaded to the spacecraft and installed on the rover shortly after launch." Fascinating - I'm only excerpting the first three paragraphs -- the article goes into a lot more detail of what happened, how they were able to diagnose it and fix it. Cool stuff and JPL has some very sharp programmers...
From the BBC comes this news: bq. Fatal fire at India space centre A fire has ripped through India's main space centre killing at least six people, police say. bq. A number of people were also injured in the blaze at the Sriharikota centre, on an island off Andhra Pradesh state. bq. Reports say an explosion triggered the fire at a solid propellant plant, where advanced rocket fuel is prepared. The fire is reported to be under control. Ouch! Solid fuel is nasty stuff - no way to shut it off once it gets going... I didn't know that India was so far along regarding satellite launches and a proposed unmanned moon flight.
Excellent resource for computer fonts There are a lot of "free" fonts available on the web but many of them are poor implementations -- bad spacing, not all the characters, just plain ugly... This place does wonderful work.
Hat tip to Kim DuToit - The Mudville Gazette has a great article on John Kerry and his service in Vietnam. bq. Here we have a JFK wannabe (the guy Halsey wanted to court martial for carelessly losing his boat and getting a couple people killed by running across the bow of a Japanese destroyer) who is hardly in Vietnam long enough to get good tan, collects medals faster than Audie Murphy in a job where lots of medals weren't common, gets sent home eight months early and requests separation from active duty a few months after that so he can run for Congress. In that election, he finds out war heroes don't sell well in Massachusetts in 1970, so he reinvents himself as Jane Fonda, throws his ribbons in the dirt with the cameras running to jump start his political career, gets Stillborn Pell to invite him to address Congress and has Bobby Kennedy's speechwriter to do the heavy lifting. A few years later he winds up in the Senate himself, where he votes against every major defense bill and says the CIA is irrelevant after the Berlin Wall came down. He votes against the Gulf War (a big political mistake since that turned out well), then decides not to make the same mistake twice so votes for invading Iraq -- but that didn't fare as well with the Democrats, so he now says he really didn't mean for Bush to go to war when he voted to allow him to go to war. Heh...
From Mysanthropyst comes a link to an article in the Sydney Morning Herald that points to an article in the Brit. Medical Journal "The Lancet": bq. Journal repents over vaccine-autism link One of the world's pre-eminent medical journals, the British magazine The Lancet, has said that it should never have published a 1998 study into controversial research linking a triple vaccine for infants to autism due to the researcher's "fatal conflict of interest". bq. The journal's editor said at the weekend that the British physician who conducted a controversial study linking the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine to autism should have revealed that he was gathering information for a lawyer representing parents who believed that their children had been harmed by the vaccine. bq. Fears over the single-dose vaccine - used in Britain since 1988 and in the United States for more than 30 years - led to a steep drop in the number of British children being vaccinated, which has been blamed for outbreaks of measles in various parts of the country. About the researcher (a Dr. Wakefield): bq. "In my view, if we had known the conflict of interest Dr Wakefield had in this work, I think that would have strongly affected the peer reviewers about the credibility of this work, and in my judgement it would have been rejected." This is the whole flap about Thimerosol and mercury and all that good (bad) stuff...
Just got back in town. Major posting will resume tomorrow. Dave
Still no internet access at the farm (although we do have two computers up there now). Blogging will resume Sunday evening. I also added some content to our Farm blog. See you in two days! Dave
Short but deep essay on errors in Scientific Software and Models used over on Crumb Trail bq. Random Answers We hear a lot of FUD as well as legitimate complaint about buggy software. It wastes our time and resources, offends our aesthetic senses and in some applications can even be life threatening. But it seems that the problems with commercial software are trivial compared to the software on which scientific research is based. See the most recent posts at Notional Slurry for an inside look. Excerpting two more paragraphs: bq. This is important. Much of the alarmism spouted by various doom advocacy groups is heavily dependent on models. Their record over the past few decades has been laughable as time and again their projections and predictions based on faulty analysis were demonstrated to be nonsense. Knowing that the quality of model implementation is as poor as the analyses on which they are based underscores the importance of keeping science at arms length from policy and exercising due skepticism about the hysterical claims of activists. bq. Those with authoritarian leanings and a need to believe are uncomfortable with uncertainty and unable to formulate policies that give it proper consideration. The media is filled with hysterical screeds denouncing one government or another for ignoring science in policy making, but this can be a very good thing. Scientists are wrong so often that it's sensible to let their findings age and mellow before use. We might take a page from scientific institutions which often wait decades before awarding honors and prizes for discoveries since they know that most will be shown to be flawed when thoroughly examined. Very well put - the entire essay is five paragraphs - worth your time reading if you are at all interested in Science and Public Policy making.
Jen just sent me a link to this story. I will never look at a squirrel the same way again. Caution: five-star drink alert.
From CBS News: bq. Japan raised its terror alert to its highest level on Friday, mobilizing heavily armed police around airports, nuclear plants and government offices to guard against a possible attack, an official said. bq. It the was first time the government went on such a heightened alert since the U.S.-led military attack on Iraq in March 2003. bq. A National Police Agency official refused to discuss whether the government had new information about a possible terror strike. From Reuters: bq. There were two late-night explosions near the Defense Ministry in Tokyo this week, which police said could have been carried out in a protest against the dispatch of Japanese troops to Iraq. And: bq. A leftist group calling itself "Kakumeigun" (Revolutionary Army) has sent letters to Japanese media claiming responsibility, Kyodo news agency said on Friday. The group said it was resorting to violence to prevent the deployment of Japanese troops to Iraq, Kyodo said. Yeah - consistent with the thinking of the left - use terrorist violence to protest military violence. Clue #1: one is in accord with the Geneva Conventions and one is not Clue #2: the troops are: "establishing a base in Samawa in southern Iraq, where they will help with humanitarian work and reconstruction" ie: non-combatent...
From Yahoo/Reuters: bq. A Raphael painting bought by Britain's National Gallery this month for $41.7 million is a fake, a U.S. art professor says. bq. The gallery secured the "Madonna of the Pinks," which it called the most significant Old Master in any British collection, after a fight to keep it in the country. bq. But James Beck, Professor of Art History at Columbia University in New York and the President of ArtWatch International, told Friday's edition of the Times the gallery had paid "a record price for a fake." Ouch!
Ohhhh - this is good!!!
From SemiSkinned comes a link to this story in the UK Telegraph:
bq. An Oxford engineering student was surprised but undaunted when he was approached to deliver a series of lectures in Beijing on global economics.
bq. Matthew Richardson knew "next to nothing" about the subject but, believing he would be addressing a sixth-form audience, he felt he could "carry it off".
bq. Mr Richardson, 23, borrowed an A-level textbook entitled An Introduction to Global Financial Markets from a library and swotted up on its contents on the flight from London to China.
And of course, there is another Matthew Richardson and you guessed it - he's a New York University professor who is a leading authority on international financial markets...
Says Matthew the Engineering student:
bq. He said: "It became clear to me that my audience was not students, but people from the world of commerce studying for a PhD in business studies having already gained an MBA.
And more (talking about the lectures themselves):
bq. "Because I was speaking through an interpreter I had the time to glance at the pages and prepare myself for what I was going to say next. I ad libbed a bit and really got into the subject. I was learning as much as my audience."
bq. To add authenticity to his delivery, he used his laptop computer to make it appear that he was reading from his own material and made notes on a board to emphasise points he was making.
And more (the audience's reaction and Matthew's problem):
bq. The following day he made it through to the lunch break when several students told him, through the interpreter, how informative they were finding his lectures.
"The problem was that I was running out of chapters. By mid-afternoon on the second day I was already on chapter 15 of 16 and I still had the rest of the day and the following morning to go. I realised I wasn't going to make it."
Fun stuff... He has a long and distinguished career of teaching ahead of him.
Again, Friday and another Victor Davis Hanson essay. bq. The Coming of Nemesis Hubris and the law of unintended consequences. bq. Irony, paradox, hubris, and nemesis are all Greek words. They reflect an early Western fascination with natural, immutable laws of destiny, perhaps akin to something like the eastern idea of karma � that excess and haughtiness can set off a chain of events that are neither predicable nor welcome. And more (talking about President Bush's military record ): bq. Instead, they floated old accusations that a twenty-something George Bush, who strapped himself into something as dangerous as an obsolete, fire-belching, and occasionally explosive F-102, was somehow near treasonous. Young Bush may have been impetuous and he apparently missed some roll calls, but anyone who rides the stratosphere a few inches above a jet engine is neither a coward nor a man who shirks either danger or responsibility. And more: bq. Now the Democrats who thought up this low hit on the president will reap what they have sown � as Kerry's entire (and ever-expanding) record of ancient slips and slurs will unnecessarily go under full scrutiny, the sometimes shameful words of a rash and mixed-up youth unfairly gaining as much attention as once brave deeds. And more (now talking about WMDs): bq. The WMD controversy is similar. It is legitimate to question the nature of American intelligence as long as the fate of Saddam's once-undeniable arsenal remains murky. And the Democrats can legitimately score points in alleging that the administration put too much emphasis on a single case for war when there were a dozen other reasons for regime change that were far more compelling. bq. But they were not content with that fair enough tactic. No, they had to press on with really offensive rhetoric � Messrs. Gore and Kennedy alleging conspiracies, near treason, and the "worst" diplomatic decision in U.S. history. A sad cast of provocateurs and Vietnam War-era retreads like Noam Chomsky, Michael Moore, Al Franken, and Not in Our Name were more often to be the intellectual godheads of the Democratic response than the ghosts of Harry Truman, JFK, and Scoop Jackson. A Hubert Humphrey would not have let a creepy Abbie Hoffman in the same room with him; Wesley Clark smirks on stage alongside a buffoonish Michael Moore as the latter calls a war-time president a deserter. Wonderful stuff!
A link to a wonderful essay courtesy of Instapundit. This essay is in Sofia Sideshow -- the blog of a US born person living in Bulgaria. It details their observations of the Left and the Left's reactions to the US involvement in Iraq. Read a few excerpts: bq. In fact, the accusations are so lame that it struck me that not even the True Believers truly believed them. bq. There is something disturbing about it. Something about this war is eating Bush's detractors alive, something unquantifiable with conventional weights and measures. I think that it is because if George W. Bush really did lie (and thus surprising both the Right and Left), the anti-war crowd would still have to face a disheartening Spectacle of Freedom For An Entire People, instead of the more satisfactory Humiliation Of Bush At The United Nations And Mass Graves Nobody Knows About. And more: bq. The anti-war crowd long ago started measuring themselves as culturally, intellectually, and morally superior to the pro-war crowd, instead of measuring whether their policies were superior. Thus, the incredible success in Afghanistan and Iraq is not a blow to their policy, it is a blow to their ego and sense of self. I think the worst example I can give is during the campaign in Afghanistan, where it became popular to repeat that ANY civilian casualties should classify the endeavor as a failure for George W. Bush and the administration. This was to raise the goalpost to a level not out of concern for Afghani civilians, but out of concern that the critics' self-image not be a casualty, to attempt to force the debate into one where it was guaranteed that the pro-war side would be inferior. Hey, to each their own, I guess. Read the whole thing. The rest of the blog looks great too -- I'm adding it to the blogroll here...
From DangerousMeta comes a link to a chart of print permanence results for Epson printers and papers at InkJet Art. This is critical for photographers who show or sell their work - early printer/paper/ink combinations had dismal results, fading with a sickly yellow cast after a few months of exposure to sunlight. Newer technology has gotten much better with some print lives being over 100 years - the worst ones are in the 10-year range (matte papers).
From Slashdot - Saul Griffith, an MIT doctoral candidate has invented a "desktop printer" for eyeglasses that allows a simple set of lenses to be turned out in about five to ten minutes. He was awarded the prestigious Lemelson prize for this. What's more is that he is working with a group at Harvard and they formed an organization to promote this -- Low Cost Eyeglasses
From Little Green Footballs comes a heads-up for a specific website. Jihad has been declared against Internet Haganah. Aaron (who runs that site) maintains a watch of those websites that host and promote terrorist and anti-semetic activities. Many times, these are located at ISPs in the USA who have no clue as to their content. He will frequently translate the information from Arabic and send this translation to the ISP for them to decide if they want to be a party to terror. The last time this happened, Aaron's Internet Haganah was hosted at one datacenter - the one I use because they are very friendly to bloggers and have great rates (Hosting Matters - check them out! This proceeded to shut down a couple of high-profile blogs (InNstapundit, LGF, etc...) until the idiots could be routed around and blocked. Now, Aaron's site is mirrored on more than a dozen servers - can you say rapidly moving target... Heh...
The Barking Moonbat Early Warning System (love that name!) takes an excellent look at the Pakistani nuclear export program and its origins: bq. Blame Europe In recent weeks, Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan of Pakistan has been exposed and pilloried (and eventually pardoned) for selling nuclear secrets to North Korea, Iran and Libya. The world is up in arms over this giving away of nuclear technology to terrorist-sponsoring countries. bq. Hold the phone. bq. According to the New York Times in today's issue, it seems that the spread of nuclear technology started in Europe. In 1971, when John Kerry was protesting the Vietnam War and accusing his former comrades of atrocities and George Bush was serving in the National Guard, several European nations got together and formed a company called Urenco. This company's sole purpose was to develop nuclear technology and enrich uranium in order to allow Europe to establish nuclear independence from the US. I suspect the French were behind it. They have a long history of "penUS envy". bq. Dr. Kahn worked for Urenco before returning to his home in Pakistan in the 80's. According to the Times, security at Urenco was "slipshod", at best. bq. Now you know. When some terrorist raghead slips a nuke into the US and blows up Cleveland, you can send a thank-you note to Europe. Not the Russians. Not the Pakistanis. Our "friends" in Europe are the ones responsible. To see what a centrifuge looks like, you can visit Uranco's website here. You can rest assured that this is for peaceful power production only. Keep repeating that and stay away from large port cities for the next ten years or so...
From Crumb Trail comes this very interesting story: bq. In the recent article by Chaudhuri and Lovley  the authors describe a fuel cell that uses glucose (a carbohydrate monomer) as the fuel and a microorganism as the catalyst. The microorganism, Rhodoferax ferrireducens, completely oxidizes glucose to carbon dioxide at neutral pH and transfers the electrons liberated from this reaction to the anode of a fuel cell with 83% efficiency in the absence of a molecule for shuttling electrons from the microorganism to the anode. Although other microbial fuel cells have been reported in the literature  (e.g. one of the earliest examples of electrical energy derived from either a microorganism or an isolated enzyme was demonstrated by Davis and Yarbrough in 1962 ), the article by Chaudhuri and Lovley is significant for three reasons. bq. First, the microbial fuel-cell oxidizes glucose to completion, liberating all 24 electrons stored in each molecule of glucose, compared with fuels that are being used or targeted for use in conventional fuel cells � hydrogen (2 electrons) or methanol (6 electrons). On a mass basis (i.e. joules per kilogram) the energy density of hydrogen is the highest of the three fuels but because it is a gas at 103 atmospheres of pressure the energy densities of fuels to be used in a fuel cell are more often compared on a volume basis (i.e. joules per liter). In this case, the energy density of glucose is the most energy-dense of the three fuels. Very cool - as the article says, there have been other examples of microbial fuel cells but none of them have had this level of efficiency. No word on commercial production - this is still very much a laboratory curiosity but if it scales, this could be very nice... The website for the two scientists can be found here and they have links to additional papers and press releases.
From USA Today: bq. United Nations inspectors have found sophisticated uranium-enrichment machinery at an air force base outside Iran's capital, Tehran, U.S. and foreign sources with knowledge of the discovery say. bq. The find at Doshen-Tappen air base appears to undermine Iran's claim it is not pursuing a nuclear bomb. The discovery may strengthen calls for action by the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog. And not just any kind of machinery: bq. Last week, U.N. inspectors looking through Iranian nuclear documents found drawings of a so-called P-2 gas centrifuge, twice as productive as a model Iran has acknowledged using to enrich uranium. Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi on Tuesday admitted Iran is doing research on the P-2, but for peaceful purposes. This is a centrifuge quite different from the one that they initially owned up to. Again, if they are doing research for peaceful purposes, why is this being done at a military base and why do they need nuclear energy at all when they are swimming in oil... Regime change now please!
This time, for email... Yes - email From BBC News comes this story: bq. UK net provider Telewest Broadband is testing a system to let people to send aromatic e-mails over the internet. bq. It has developed a kind of hi-tech air freshener that plugs into a PC and sprays a smell linked to the message. bq. Telewest say it could be used by supermarkets to tempt people with the smell of fresh bread or by holiday companies seeking to stir up images of sun-kissed beaches. They go on to show the a picture of the machine and mention that it will cost around 250 GBP (close to $500 USD) Yikes... All this just to get scented SPAM...
This is interesting... As reported by the BBC: bq. The planning of the UK's flood defences is to get a helping hand from a 3D virtual world-based computer game. bq. FloodRanger, set in a fictional region over a 100-year period, helps planners and engineers work out strategies to cope with real-life flooding. bq. As in other virtual world games, like SimCity, players have God-like control, so social, economic and environmental decisions have knock-on effects. bq. It was developed as part of the DTI's Foresight flood defence project. And the reason: bq. According to the government's chief scientific adviser, Sir David King, the number of people at high risk of flooding in Britain was expected to more than double to nearly 3.5 million by 2080. Very cool idea - the article goes on to say that great pains are being taken to make sure the hydrological model is an accurate one. I would imagine that there are so many factors involved that flood control is a very complex task. England has a lot of canals with locks and dams and each section of water has its own time-constant. With the growth in population, people will be building on flood plains and with the increase of farming and logging, more rain runoff will become available. I Googled the software (FloodRanger) and it turns out it's available commercially for 49 GBP which is about $96 USD. Ouch. Guess I will not be trying it after all...
Ooops... As reported in the Times Online: bq. Sleepy lawyers and bankers, exhausted after working on the takeover battle for AT&T Wireless, almost cost Cingular, the winning bidder, an extra $1.6 billion because of a clerical slip-up. bq. Cingular was forced to file a new acquisition agreement with the US Securities and Exchange Commission last night because the costly error had not been noticed and was therefore legally binding. As one person said: bq. A senior City source tried to explain: �Look these guys haven�t slept for four days.� Heh...
Intel seems to be biting the bullet and developing Xeon chips with some 64-bit capabilities. In an article from Computer Business Review online, author Timothy Prickett Morgan writes: bq. The conspiracy theorists are not always wrong. The future Xeon workstation and server processors from Intel Corp that are based on the new "Prescott" core that was announced a few weeks ago do indeed have 64-bit memory extensions in them. bq. With the launch of 64-bit Xeons, which will roll out in the next several months, server strategies based on Itanium and Opteron are put into a new light, if not called directly into question. bq. Intel made the announcement of the 64-bit extensions to the Xeon processors yesterday during the opening keynote address by CEO Craig Barrett at the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco. In referring to the 64-bit extensions, which were reportedly developed under the code name "Yamhill," Barrett called the extended Xeon "probably the worst kept secret in Silicon Valley history." This is not a 64-bit core - the central part of the CPU is still running at 32-bits but it does allow for 64-bit addressing. This is fantastic as it makes dealing with large amounts of memory a lot simpler. The Xeon is based on their consumer P-4 CPU but is optimized for large-scale computing and the server market. This is probably in direct response to AMDs hugely successful Opteron. This Xeon chip is not the new Itanium - the Itanium is a true full 64-bit CPU and when they get the performance issues worked out, it will be the next generation of computing.
Finally, a show of common sense... From ABC/Reuters bq. UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has decided to oppose quick elections in Iraq before the U.S. occupation relinquishes power on June 30 and suggest an alternate timeframe for a poll, diplomats said on Thursday. And more: bq. Annan and his senior envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi, are scheduled on Thursday to brief more than 45 interested nations on the viability of elections, followed by a private meeting with the 15 U.N. Security Council members. So it's Brahimi who gave Kofi the much needed application of clue-bat... bq. Brahimi, who just returned from Iraq, has concluded that organizing fair elections by June 30, as Iraqi Shi'ite leaders want, was not feasible, U.N. officials said. But he and Annan have not yet decided on the shape of an Iraq interim government to take office on June 30, diplomats said. Cool - the situation over there is so complex with three major ethnic groups vying for power. Makes a lot of sense to take time and get it right.
Hat tip to Instapundit for this article at News.com: bq. A New Jersey woman, one of the hundreds of people accused of copyright infringement by the Recording Industry Association of America, has countersued the big record labels, charging them with extortion and violations of the federal antiracketeering act. bq. Through her attorneys, Michele Scimeca contends that by suing file-swappers for copyright infringement, and then offering to settle instead of pursuing a case where liability could reach into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, the RIAA is violating the same laws that are more typically applied to gangsters and organized crime. bq. "This scare tactic has caused a vast amount of settlements from individuals who feared fighting such a large institution and feel victim to these actions and felt forced to provide funds to settle these actions instead of fighting," Scimeca's attorney, Bart Lombardo, wrote in documents filed with a New Jersey federal court. "These types of scare tactics are not permissible and amount to extortion." These are the RICO statutes (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) and IANAL but she may have a case. It would be cool if this got a lot of publicity since the money that is being collected by the RIAA does not go to the artists, it goes to the record companies.
From Junkyard Blog comes a story of Ann Coulter and CNN's Al Hunt. bq. Say one thing about Ann Coulter--she always manages to bring out the worst in Democrats and their press spinners. And more: bq. Predictably, several Dems started calling Coulter names, calling for her head, calling her a liar, and so forth. CNN's Al Hunt led the charge on Capital Gang: bq. HUNT: Mark, a right-wing hit lady named Ann Coulter charged that Max Cleland, who won a Silver Star in Vietnam and is a prominent Kerry supporter, lost his three limbs while getting ready to drink beer with pals. She said it just as easily could have occurred in the Texas Air National Guard. That's irrelevant, that's vicious, and that's a lie. Captain Cleland lost his legs and an arm on a reconnaissance mission in Vietnam. They don't usually carry live grenades and M-16s in the Texas Air National Guard. This despicable venom was carried on the Heritage Foundation Web site. Ann weighs in with this: bq. Sadly for them, dozens and dozens of newspapers have already printed the truth. Liberals simply can't grasp the problem Lexis-Nexis poses to their incessant lying. They ought to stick to their specialty � hysterical overreaction. The truth is not their forte. bq. One of the most detailed accounts of Cleland's life was written by Jill Zuckman in a lengthy piece for the Boston Globe Sunday magazine on Aug. 3, 1997: And a quote from the Boston Globe story: bq. Finally, the battle at Khe Sanh was over. Cleland, 25 years old, and two members of his team were now ordered to set up a radio relay station at the division assembly area, 15 miles away. The three gathered antennas, radios and a generator and made the 15-minute helicopter trip east. After unloading the equipment, Cleland climbed back into the helicopter for the ride back. But at the last minute, he decided to stay and have a beer with some friends. As the helicopter was lifting off, he shouted to the pilot that he was staying behind and jumped several feet to the ground. bq. Cleland hunched over to avoid the whirring blades and ran. Turning to face the helicopter, he caught sight of a grenade on the ground where the chopper had perched. It must be mine, he thought, moving toward it. He reached for it with his right arm just as it exploded, slamming him back and irreparably altering his plans for a bright, shining future. The article then goes on to corroborate this with several other newspaper articles saying essentially the same thing. Game set and match... Heh...
Excellent set of open source programs for assembling individual photographs into panoramas. You can do straight images as well as QTVR and Java based interactive viewers. Available in MAC, Windows and Linux versions here Also, there is PTLens - this is a plug-in for Panorama Tools that allows you to correct for lens distortion (barrel and pincushion) This is available in Windows only here
All in the name of science - WPVI Philadelphia reports that amateur astronomers wanting to study meteorite craters have: bq. Last Friday they tossed a bowling ball out of an airplane over the Utah desert. No danger of a gutter ball here. bq. But there's more to their airborne tenpins than strikes and spares. bq. Patrick Wiggins says the idea was to simulate meteorite craters. bq. They used a 14-pound, red-swirl bowling ball, which was dropped from a rented Cessna at more than 800 feet. bq. Wiggins says they're not done with the bowling bombing yet. They're going to try varying heights and different objects. bq. Next time they may try some iron slag or rocks, which are more like meteorites than a bowling ball. Heh...
From a new voice in the blogosphere: "democrats give conservatives indigestion" comes this rant bq. Would you like some surrender-monkey cheese with that whine? You know.... I�ve been reading news articles and reading peoples views on what is happening in this country for quite some time now. I've seen people stand up for the President and I've seen people trash him. There are those that want to do what is right for this country and those that want it torn down. bq. I'm not a scholar, or orator. I am just an ordinary person, so don't expect me to be quoting snotty authors or writing 8 letter words to get my point across. And one more taste: bq. I'm fed up with all the jello-spined, snotty, power hungry, more taxes, less freedom, less military, less security, anti-Democracy, Pro-communist, Pro-Affirmative Action, Anti-Get off your ass and live your own life, Pro-Welfare, Anti-Get off your ass and get a job, French/German/UN ass kissing, terrorist ass kissing, "Let's drag this country into the sewer", "9/11 needs to be forgotten", "Bush lied", "Bush is Hitler", "Bush is evil", bottom feeding, scum sucking, FREAKING LIBERAL MORONS!!!!!!!! It gets better - check out the whole site.
From DP Review: bq. Matsushita, best known for its Panasonic brand, has recently announced the development of its next-generation image sensor "v(nu)MAICOVICON". Compared to the conventional image sensors, the new product has advantages such as less power consumption than the CCD image sensors, and higher quality image production compared to CMOS image sensors. Mass production of the sensors will start this month. Future models will feature increased number of pixels and enhanced performance speed, capable to be applied to AV-related products such as digital still cameras, digital video cameras. This field just keeps getting better and better... Fun times! I'm still blown away with the image quality of the Nikon D1X and this is classic old skool tech. Maybe I'll upgrade in a couple years but I'm really happy with the results I'm getting from it.
Celebrate your inner geekdom at the Nerdling website. Hat tip to Bizarre Science bq. Welcome to nerdling: a zine aimed at people who love science, people who hate it, people who are studying it coz they have to, people who have ever watched a doco on space and gone �whoa�, closet nerds, or people who just thought �Back to the Future� was a kickarse movie. bq. We think that nerdism is something to be celebrated. So check out the zine and join us in an orgy of delicious sci-fi, maths, physics, and whatever else happens to take our fancy at the times. bq. We are nerds. We are free. The issues (nine so far) are in PDF format so take a while to download. Cool links section too -- not too many but very high geek factor.
Steven Green at Vodkapundit weighs in with a conversation he had with some anti-Bush types in NYC, a few blocks from the World Trade Center: bq. On Monday, I talked about some of the anti-Bush venom I'd heard in New York over the previous weekend. One particular noisy conversation, overheard whether I liked it or not (my fiancee and I were trying to have lunch a few feet away) was between a self-declared unemployed 30-ish programmer and an old retired guy who were drinking away their afternoons at a Village bar. bq. Most of it was standard-issue liar-crooked-moron blather, and unremarkable except for the volume. But then the younger guy started in on last year's appropriation for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan: bq. "I mean, $86 billion? What the filth is that? What the hell is he doing spending all that money over there? We could be fillin' potholes with that." Scroll down and check out his readers comments too - eloquent.
Search by Location from Google Labs Look for anything within a 15 mile radius of your geographical entry. Cool stuff!
Very nice Free undelete utility for Windows here Works great with Compact Flash cards as well as hard disks.
From MS/NBC comes this story of "The Mystery of the Missing Car" bq. My white 2003 Honda Civic hybrid is a marvelous machine: it converts regular gasoline, battery-stored electricity and environmental sanctimony into forward motion at a tenacious 45 miles to the gallon. My wife and I affectionately named it Honky. bq. But last Christmas, three months after we bought Honky from a downtown San Francisco Honda dealership, our brand-new car was transporting us at a disappointing zero miles to the gallon. It had mysteriously disappeared from the street in front of our house while we were on vacation. It was one of the new Honda hybrid (gas-electric) hybrids that had an extensive anti-theft system. One thing that is also of interest is that the owners information was stolen (title and registration), this is a precursor to identity theft so I hope the author is taking precautions.
Blogging will be light tonight but back to full volume (spew?) tomorrow. I'll be putting pictures of our new tractor (Buttercup) on the other website in about an hour.
We are headed up to Mt. Baker again for a long weekend - heading back next Tuesday. Blogging will be non-existent until then. We are taking delivery of the tractor - more info on our Mt. Baker property can be found at our Hard Cider website here
SPAM is becoming more and more a problem with today's internet access. One tool that seems to work well (and I have looked at a lot of them) is made by Cloudmark. SpamNet works by maintaining a common database of known SPAM against which your incoming email is tested. This is the same database used in the Linux open-source product Vipul's Razor which has garnered very high reviews. Incoming mail that is not caught by SpamNet can be subsequently blocked by you and your addition is added to the common database so other people will not get it. There are other solutions based on Bayesian Filtering but the use of "Haiku Spam" (spam with random words in the subject and message body) effectively blocks this. SpamNet seems to get most of them at first whack. 30 days for free and then a couple bucks/month for access to the database and upgrades. Good stuff!
Interesting development on Ivan Rybkin's dissapearence in BBC World: bq. The Russian presidential candidate who went missing for five days has said he was detained against his will. bq. Ivan Rybkin initially said he went to Ukraine of his own accord, but now says he was lured there under false pretences, drugged and kidnapped. Strange...
From Yahoo/Reuters comes the story of a fun-loving guy who issues a Fatwa against Valentine's Day. bq. Saudi Arabia's religious authorities have ordered Muslims to shun the "pagan" holiday of Valentine's Day so as not to incur God's wrath, the local al-Riyadh newspaper said Friday. bq. "It is a pagan Christian holiday and Muslims who believe in God and Judgment Day should not celebrate or acknowledge it or congratulate (people on it). It is a duty to shun it to avoid God's anger and punishment," said an edict issued by Saudi Arabia's fatwa committee published in the Arabic-language daily. bq. "There are only two holidays in Islam -- Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha -- and any other holidays, whether to celebrate an individual, group or event, are inventions which Muslims are banned from," said the committee, headed by Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz bin Abdullah al-Sheikh. Didn't know there were Grinches in the middle-east...
From CNN comes a report of work being done at the University of Minnesota: bq. Researchers say they have produced hydrogen from ethanol in a prototype reactor small enough and efficient enough to heat small homes and power cars. bq. The development could help open the way for cleaner-burning technology at home and on the road. bq. Current methods of producing hydrogen from ethanol require large refineries and copious amounts of fossil fuels, the University of Minnesota researchers said. bq. The reactor is a relatively tiny 2-foot-high apparatus of tubes and wires that creates hydrogen from corn-based ethanol. A fuel cell, which acts like a battery, then generates power. Couple of big red flags here. #1) - does the ethanol need to be pure? How pure? Ethanol is purified by distillation. Conventional fermentation works up to about 20% Alcohol by Volume (ABV) and then the yeast cells tucker out and go to sleep. Any higher purity has to be done with distillation which is very energy costly. For commercial grade ethanol, you need the energy contained in 1.5 gallons of gasoline to produce one gallon of ethanol. #2) - why fuel cells? They are not efficient at all. I blogged about Microturbines here and they would definitely be the way to go. They would need to be larger scale (neighborhood power plant rather than household) but the economics of scale would dictate cheaper operating costs. #3) - why Hydrogen? All Hydrogen is is an inefficient energy transport medium. It is not a fuel since it costs more energy to make than it yields. It is also a bear to transport, it will make most metals brittle so tanks need to be of special design. Gasoline by comparison is a dream to work with. Huge stored energy and despite all the increases in prices, it is still cheaper by gallon than bottled water. There is a need to re-think our energy use in this nation (and in the world) but the so-called "renewables" are often more damaging to the environment when you look at the entire chain-of-events required to get the energy to your need.
From BBC News comes an article with some cool pictures from Europe's Mars Express orbiter. bq. Europe's Mars Express space probe in orbit around the Red Planet has produced a stunning image of the highest volcano in the Solar System. The probe produced images of Olympus Mons, a 22 kilometre-high volcano. bq. The images show the volcano's caldera, the circular depression from which magma erupts or is withdrawn. bq. "I was amazed myself at how good it is," Professor Gerhard Neukum, principal investigator on the probe's camera told BBC News Online. Wonderful stuff... The Beeb has another earlier article here
McQ over at QandO links to and comments on an article from Dr. Abd Al-Hamid Al-Ansari, former dean of the Faculty of Islamic Law at the University of Qatar which was published in the London Arabic-language daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat. bq. Dr. Al-Ansari: "The other problem is terrorism. We have suffered from terror and we cannot get rid of it. If terror had not struck within America we would not be able to fight it. It is true that America transferred the war to the terrorists' own territories rather than waiting [until they struck]� " bq. McQ: Much to the chagrin of the terrorist and the anti-war folks. bq. Dr. Al-Ansari: "But might alone is not enough. Terrorism has an ideological and cultural base that must be dismantled, and therefore America needs to encourage the countries to reexamine their educational systems in full � not only the curriculum � and must give financial and professional aid in developing the educational system�" bq. McQ: Bingo. Sound advice we need to heed. bq. Dr. Al-Ansari: "Our third demand of America is connected to the Palestinian problem and to improving the image of America, since the [Arab] media focuses on the negative aspects of America and does not mention its positive face. The media help vilify the image of America and increase hatred for it, but it is not acting in a vacuum. America's bias in favor of Israel provides fertile ground for blackening the image of America in the Arab and Muslim public awareness � and as the emir of Qatar said� We call on America to view our problems with greater balance, justice, and honesty. This is what will improve its image in the Arab and Islamic world�" bq. McQ: Yes. This IS the crux of the image problem in the Arab world. Until it is resolved, doing the other things which need to be done will remain virtually impossible. THIS is where eveyone, the Arabs, Palestinians, Europe, Israel and the US, need to focus their attention until a solution is reached. Until then, we can expect more of the same. Good stuff...
Very cool (low)technology as reported by Defensetech: bq. The Army is sending blimps to Iraq, to spot bad guys from the skies. bq. Two 56,000-cubic-foot, tethered, "aerostats" will be ready to ship this summer, part of a Pentagon-wide push towards airships. The military likes the helium-filled crafts because they're cheap -- just $1.6 million each -- and because they can stay in the air much, much longer than regular airplanes or copters. This is another example of the unmanned aircraft that are becoming very popular. Large stable platform, perfect for silently hovering over an area for long periods at a time quietly recording everything it can see. SigInt as well. Cheap, there are no humans on board so losses are not critical. Technology is a fun thing!
Another link today from Little Green Footballs This time Charles points to an article in the National Review by Michelle Malkin. Michelle took the name of the National Guardsman (Ryan G. Anderson), found his old college email address and used the Google Groups search tool to find an archive of 154 Usenet postings from Ryan. Fascinating insight into a very confused and corrupt mind... Michelle writes: bq. Using the e-mail address firstname.lastname@example.org, Anderson posted prolifically to a strange and volatile variety of Internet newsgroups, including forums for gun enthusiasts, skinheads, cinema, games, Islam, and Arabic culture. He offered opinions on everything from the movie Starship Troopers to sniping weapons and presidential politics. Putting aside the chronic misspellings, the 154 messages are an instructive glimpse into the mind of an immature American youth with a potentially dangerous longing to belong. Read the article or check out some of Ryan's postings at Google Groups
From Little Green Footballs comes an interesting link to an article by Ben Johnson in Front Page Magazine bq. Teresa Heinz Kerry: Bag Lady for the Radical Left With Matt Drudge�s recent revelation that John Kerry is as faithful to his second wife as he was to his old Vietnam �brothers,� the senator�s presidential campaign may depend more than ever on the actions of his wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry. While the mainstream media has thus far overlooked the alleged infidelity, media outlets have also overlooked a far more important story: The former Mrs. John Heinz is also in bed � financially � with the radical Left. bq. Teresa Heinz Kerry has financed the secretive Tides Foundation to the tune of more than $4 million over the years. The Tides Foundation, a �charity� established in 1976 by antiwar leftist activist Drummond Pike, distributes millions of dollars in grants every year to political organizations advocating far-Left causes. The Tides Foundation and its closely allied Tides Center, which was spun off from the Foundation in 1996 but run by Drummond Pike, distributed nearly $66 million in grants in 2002 alone. In all, Tides has distributed more than $300 million for the Left. These funds went to rabid antiwar demonstrators, anti-trade demonstrators, domestic Islamist organizations, pro-terrorists legal groups, environmentalists, abortion partisans, extremist homosexual activists and open borders advocates. The article then goes on to list some of the groups funded by Tides complete with links showing their agendas. Very interesting stuff...
Friday and time for another essay by Victor Davis Hanson: bq. After listening to a variety of American, Middle Eastern, and European pundits, I wish that their understanding of the way the world works were true � or at least even that they believed it to be true. If so, just imagine the following... bq. That when all the Israelis vacate the Gaza Strip and, like most of the Arab world elsewhere it is free of Jews, indigenous Palestinian consensual government will at last quickly bring peace and tranquility there to its own delighted native citizenry. bq. That Arab-Israeli communities near the border are agitating to be annexed by Palestine in order to join their brethren under the aegis of Mr. Arafat's non-Zionist utopia. bq. That with the promised two-state solution and a return to the so-called Green Line, a few thousand Jewish �migr�s can choose to live in safety in newly autonomous Palestine in the same manner as hundreds of thousands of their Arab counterparts now do in Israel. bq. That Pakistan, Iran, and Libya, either in fear or out of admiration, bowed to pressure from the EU and the UN to release information about their WMD programs. bq. That Saudi Arabia is now hunting down al Qaedists due to belated sympathy and concern about 9/11. And the list keeps going and going and going... Heh... He closes with the following: bq. For all the most recent invective about his lack of spontaneous televised eloquence, almost every necessary and dangerous initiative Mr. Bush has undertaken since 9/11 � protect American shores, destroy the Taliban, scatter al Qaeda, take out Saddam Hussein, promote democracy in the Middle East, put rogue regimes with weapons of mass destruction on notice � has worked or is in the process of coming to fruition. bq. In response to that success often we have met dissimulation, pretext, and rhetoric of those who have much to lose and very little to gain by seeing the old way of business � status quo alliances, deductive anti-Americanism, corrupt Middle East policies, and bankrupt ideologies such as moral equivalence, utopian pacifism, and multiculturalism � go by the wayside. bq. And so we get fantasy in place of reality. So true... Look at the articles on bias in the media, on how only 'bad news' is being reported from Iraq (the recent departure of Dr. Bob Arnot over this is a classic case).
Excellent article by Steven DenBeste of the issue with nations developing nuclear capability and the 'leakage' of that capability and materials to terrorist organizations. bq. At this point I am feeling quite confident that Qaddafi is not playing any games and has genuinely given up his ambition to develop nuclear weapons. There's good reason to believe that Libya's intelligence agency is actively cooperating with the US and UK and revealing everything it has on other nations which were involved. If so, the effort has suffered a calamitous compromise. bq. Pakistan already had nukes, and its top experts had been providing technical advice to the others. That's now been exposed, but not totally resolved. (Apparently one reason the US is soft-pedaling its reaction is the hope that the Pakistani scientists involved may be able to provide information about the current state of NK's development effort.) These two paragraphs are the barest of excerpts - read the article for a very thoughtful analysis of the situation with links to data and also links to other views. Good stuff!
With the Drudge report regarding John F. Kerry and his alleged affair with an intern making the news (Matt Drudge was also the news source that broke the Clinton/Lewinsky story), it's fun to see the pundits come out with their views and opinions. Even more fun when very little actual fact has been released. A quick Google News search turns up lots of reading enjoyment: Mystery of Kerry and the Intern (here) Will Teresa Heinz Mimic Hillary (here) Don't Jump Too Soon on Kerry Hit, Interns Only Enhance Democrat Resumes (here) Leheinious Fingerprints on Kerry Story? (here) This last one refers to Chris Lehane (Clarks press secy) who worked for Gore and briefly advised Kerry during this campaign. It's also fun to note that the Blogosphere announced it several days before the Drudge Report. Glen notes at Instapundit that the Watch Blog had this February 6th article: bq. Rumor has it that John Kerry (D) is going to be outed by Time Magazine next week for having an affair with a 20 year old woman who remains unknown. The affair supposedly took place intermittently right up to Kerry's Fall 2002 announcement of candidacy. At present, this is nothing more than a rumor; and after such sordid tactics as the "push polling" that took place in South Carolina in the 2000 elections, can such rumors be credible during campaign cycles? Could this create a Democratic backlash against Republicans for perceived scandalmongering? More from them here Joshua Clayborn has more here
From the Seattle Times: bq. A National Guardsman stationed at Fort Lewis was arrested today and charged by the Army with trying to provide information to the al-Qaida terrorist network, a federal law enforcement official said. bq. The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Associated Press that Spc. Ryan G. Anderson was charged with "aiding the enemy by wrongfully attempting to communicate and give intelligence to the al-Qaida terrorist network." bq. Anderson, a Muslim, was being held at Fort Lewis, an Army base near Tacoma. The article goes on to say that Anderson had converted five years ago. I can see being sympathetic to your spiritual practices but this is absolute treason. The line between the two is not that difficult to discern...
Nice link from No Watermellons to an article in Technology Review on Microturbines. These are small electrical and thermal generators that can use a wide range of fuels and provide 25 to 250 KW of power. Uses the same sort of engine as a jet airliner only smaller and quieter. bq. While it�s probably still true that all politics is local, all power is not. Most businesses still rely on large, central electric-generation utilities for the juice to run their operations. But that�s changing. Faced with soaring prices, a doubling of demand in recent decades, and an aging power grid susceptible to blackouts, an increasing number of small- to medium-size businesses want local control over their power supply. That can mean literally putting it in their back yards. bq. Among the most economical, cleanest-burning and most fuel-efficient of the new power sources now emerging is the microturbine. Commercially available for only about three years, microturbines are small combustion turbines that consume natural gas or a variety of other fuels to produce 25 to 250 kilowatts of power. About as tall as a good-sized man and two or three times as wide, these compact dynamos�cousins of the engines that power jet airplanes�can be parked right next to a business facility. Cool stuff - the company that was mentioned in the article Capstone has a good website with lots of info about this technology.
Hat tip to Curmudgeonly and Skeptical for this link to a wonderful Editorial column in the Washington Times. Tony Blankley writes: bq. The Boston Globe � the respected, liberal newspaper owned by the New York Times � ran an article last week that Bush critics may wish to read carefully. It is a report on a new book that argues that President Bush has developed and is ably implementing only the third American grand strategy in our history. bq. The author of this book, "Surprise, Security, and the American Experience" (Harvard Press) to be released in March, is John Lewis Gaddis, the Robert A. Lovett professor of military and naval history at Yale University. The Boston Globe describes Mr. Gaddis as "the dean of Cold War studies and one of the nation's most eminent diplomatic historians." In other words, this is not some put-up job by an obscure right-wing author. This comes from the pinnacle of the liberal Ivy League academic establishment. bq. If you hate George W. Bush, you will hate this Boston Globe story because it makes a strong case that Mr. Bush stands in a select category with presidents Franklin Delano Roosevelt and James Monroe (as guided by his secretary of state, John Q. Adams) in implementing one of only three grand strategies of American foreign policy in our two-century history. Read the whole thing - it's very well thought out. Unfortunately, the Boston Globe only has today's and yesterday's news items available online for free. Everything else is fee-based. Pfffuuii!
From Yahoo/AP comes this story of the next step in normalizing relations with our new friend Libya: bq. The United States is considering lifting sanctions on Libya but the timing will depend on how fast Tripoli dismantles its arms programs, Undersecretary of State John Bolton said on Thursday. bq. "The precise way in which the various applicable American restrictions on dealings with Libya will be removed is a subject we've been considering internally. We've discussed it with the Libyans and I think you'll see it unfolding," Bolton said. bq. But he told journalists in Berlin: "There's no deadline or timetable that we're operating under." bq. In a dramatic move to shed its rogue state image, Libya announced in December it was renouncing weapons of mass destruction and would cooperate with the West in dismantling its programs. bq. In an indication of fast-improving ties, the United States confirmed on Tuesday it had re-established a diplomatic presence in Tripoli and Libyan diplomats would set up in Washington soon. This is very cool because we are showing the other nations that we play fair and that there are major advantages to bringing terrorism to a halt. You can bet that a number of other countries are watching this little ballet. Government and citizens alike.
From Yahoo/AP comes this little tidbit: bq. Malaysia's leader on Thursday questioned U.S. intelligence on this country's role in a global nuclear trafficking network, and said the man President Bush called its "chief financial officer and money launderer" would not be arrested, for now. And more: bq. Malaysia has said Bush is unfairly singling out this Southeast Asian country with his assertions about its role in the network run by the scientist, Abdul Qadeer Khan. bq. "There is no such thing as Malaysia's involvement," Abdullah told reporters Thursday, when asked to respond to the remarks Bush made in a speech. "We are not involved in any way. I don't know where Bush is getting his evidence from." Or, we are heavily involved but don't want anyone to know about it. bq. Bush said Khan and his associates used a company in Malaysia to make parts for centrifuges � which can be used to enrich uranium for weapons � and that front companies had been used to "deceive legitimate firms into selling them tightly controlled materials." bq. The Malaysian company doesn't deny making the parts, but says it didn't know what they were for. Yeah right - and we have some wonderful waterfront property to sell you. bq. Both U.S. officials and the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency say the components were clearly for nuclear use, disputing Malaysian police assertions that they could have had other purposes. And who was making these parts: bq. The Malaysian company, Scomi Precision Engineering, says it supplied 14 semifinished machine components, ordered by Tahir, to Dubai. It says it understood the parts were for use in the oil and gas industry. bq. The company's parent, Scomi Group, is majority-controlled by Kamaluddin Abdullah, the prime minister's only son, who does not play an official management role in the company. Big surprise there. We were looking for a country to be making nuclear weapons. What we found was a network of countries each contributing their element of a nuclear program. This is much bigger and much worse.
bq. Russia Says Will Sign Deal on Nuclear Fuel for Iran Russia said on Thursday it planned to sign a deal with Iran next month to ship nuclear fuel for Iran's power plant, defying U.S. pressure on Moscow to sever nuclear ties with the Islamic Republic. bq. Tehran and Moscow have been locked in months of tough talks over nuclear shipments for the $800 million Bushehr plant Russia has helped to build despite repeated U.S. accusations that Iran is secretly trying to acquire nuclear arms. bq. "I think in about two weeks all outstanding issues will be settled, that is, by the end of February," Atomic Energy Minister Alexander Rumyantsev told reporters. And they have all of this oil so tell me again why they need nuclear reactors??? Hmmm...
Clever idea being reported in today's IOL News: bq. Israeli police have come up with plans to place bags of pig lard on buses in a bid to deter Palestinian militants from carrying out suicide attacks, the Maariv daily reported on Thursday. bq. Rabbinical authorities have given the idea its approval on the grounds that it could be a life-saving measure even though pigs are also considered impure by Jews. bq. Authorities believe that the move could discourage Palestinians from carrying out attacks as pieces of their exploded body could come into contact with the pig fat, prejudicing their chances of entering into paradise. Heh... Imagine getting to within sight of your promissed 72 raisins and being denied because of a spot of pig fat...
From Yahoo/E! Online: bq. "The Simpsons" Movie...Finally? In 1993, Matt Groening, in a caveman-era Internet chat, was asked if there'd ever be a Simpsons movie. He didn't say yes, he didn't say no. He said a film "is way down the line." bq. He wasn't kidding. bq. More than 10 years since that Net moment and more than 15 years since Groening's animated clan made their TV debut, The Simpsons is finally getting ready for its close-up. bq. Maybe. Read the article for the rest.
Matt Drudge (yeah, I know, I know...) is reporting a developing story regarding J. F. Kerry and an intern (female) who was prompted to leave the country recently... bq. CAMPAIGN DRAMA ROCKS DEMOCRATS: KERRY FIGHTS OFF MEDIA PROBE OF RECENT ALLEGED INFIDELITY, RIVALS PREDICT RUIN bq. **World Exclusive** **Must Credit the DRUDGE REPORT** bq. A frantic behind-the-scenes drama is unfolding around Sen. John Kerry and his quest to lockup the Democratic nomination for president, the DRUDGE REPORT can reveal. bq. Intrigue surrounds a woman who recently fled the country, reportedly at the prodding of Kerry, the DRUDGE REPORT has learned. bq. A serious investigation of the woman and the nature of her relationship with Sen. John Kerry has been underway at TIME magazine, ABC NEWS, the WASHINGTON POST, THE HILL and the ASSOCIATED PRESS, where the woman in question once worked. bq. MORE bq. A close friend of the woman first approached a reporter late last year claiming fantastic stories -- stories that now threaten to turn the race for the presidency on its head! bq. In an off-the-record conversation with a dozen reporters earlier this week, General Wesley Clark plainly stated: "Kerry will implode over an intern issue." [Three reporters in attendance confirm Clark made the startling comments.] bq. The Kerry commotion is why Howard Dean has turned increasingly aggressive against Kerry in recent days, and is the key reason why Dean reversed his decision not to drop out of the race after Wisconsin, top campaign sources tell the DRUDGE REPORT. I know that Drudge is not the most reliable of sources but this could be a bombshell if it's true... I am wondering why Clark dropped out if he knew this though. UPDATE: bq. FROM CONRESSIONAL QUARTERLY'S CRAIG CRAWFORD: 'Drudge item on Kerry intern issue is something Chris Lehane (clark press secy) has shopped around for a long time -- it was one reason the Gore vetters in 2000 shied away from Kerry as a running mate choice -- their conclusion that it wasn't bad enough to disqualify him, except for the fact that they couldn't risk it as they were trying so hard to distance themselves from Clinton's personal failings (note: Lehane worked for Gore at the time -- and briefly advised Kerry during this campaign). The Kerry camp has long expected to deal with this, and have assured party leaders they can handle it'...
"We are teaching the world the great truth that Governments do better without Kings & Nobles than with them. The merit will be doubled by the other lesson that Religion Flourishes in greater purity, without than with the aid of Government." James Madison
The Dog Snot Diaries has a fantastic photograph of Presidential candidate J. F. Kerry with Hanoi Jane speaking to a crowd of Vietnam Veterans against the War. In case you forget, the issue behind Vietnam was: #1) - we took the conflict over from the French who bailed out. #2) - the North Vietnamese were funded by the Communist Chinese who wanted in on the rubber and oil (it's about the oooiiiiiiillllll) #3) - the US folded to pressure to 'get out now', the North invaded the South and killed several millions of people and the economy of that place is still in the toilet although it is improving now. Human Rights issues over there are pretty grim too. People want to leave and come here. Leftist paradise indeed... And this is the man who would be king. Some man; some king...
From Instapundit comes the story that respected journalist Dr. Bob Arnot has left NBC. Glenn links to a New York Observer article that says the following: bq. Dr. Arnot�s contract was up at NBC in December 2003 and, according to the network, won�t be renewed in the foreseeable future. bq. Dr. Arnot did not leave willingly. bq. Although personal, his departure has also exposed the divides over TV coverage of the war in Iraq. bq. In a 1,300-word e-mail to NBC News president Neal Shapiro, written in December 2003 and obtained by NYTV, Dr. Arnot called NBC News� coverage of Iraq biased. He argued that keeping him in Iraq and on NBC could go far in rectifying that. Dr. Arnot told Mr. Shapiro that NBC had alienated the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad since it shot and then aired footage of correspondent Jim Miklaszewski at the scene of the November bombing of the Al Rashid Hotel, in which a C.P.A. staffer was shown injured. That incident, he wrote, "earned the undying enmity of the C.P.A." And more: Maj. Clark Taylor e-mailed NYTV from Baghdad to state that Dr. Arnot "highlighted what is really happening over here �. He generally reported positive things because, generally, that is what is happening. Of course there are occasional bad things � and he reported those as well. The fact was, he reported what he saw�which generally was positive." Of course, this will never hit the mainstream media. You need to read some of the blogs from Iraqi's and Coalition military to get an accurate picture of what's happening over there. This is a major disservice to this nation in that the people who don't really bother to find out the real story has a uniformly bad view of this situation and this is not a good thing given that we need to be strong in this ongoing battle against fanaticism, corruption and terror.
Great letter to the editor in The Washington Times from someone who served with G.W. Bush during his days in the Texas Air National Guard: bq. George Bush and I were lieutenants and pilots in the 111th Fighter Interceptor Squadron (FIS), Texas Air National Guard (ANG) from 1970 to 1971. And more: bq. It is quite frustrating to hear the daily cacophony from the left and Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, et al., about Lt. Bush escaping his military responsibilities by hiding in the Texas ANG. In the Air Guard during the Vietnam War, you were always subject to call-up, as many Air National Guardsmen are finding out today. If the 111th FIS and Lt. Bush did not go to Vietnam, blame President Johnson and Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara, not lowly Lt. Bush. They deliberately avoided use of the Guard and Reserves for domestic political calculations, knowing that a draftee only stirred up the concerns of one family, while a call-up got a whole community's attention. Col. William Campenni (retired) closes the letter out with the following paragraphs: bq. While most of America was sleeping and Mr. Kerry was playing antiwar games with Hanoi Jane Fonda, we were answering 3 a.m. scrambles for who knows what inbound threat over the Canadian subarctic, the cold North Atlantic and the shark-filled Gulf of Mexico. We were the pathfinders in showing that the Guard and Reserves could become reliable members of the first team in the total force, so proudly evidenced today in Afghanistan and Iraq. bq. It didn't happen by accident. It happened because back at the nadir of Guard fortunes in the early '70s, a lot of volunteer guardsman showed they were ready and able to accept the responsibilities of soldier and citizen � then and now. Lt. Bush was a kid whose congressman father encouraged him to serve in the Air National Guard. We served proudly in the Guard. Would that Mr. Kerry encourage his children and the children of his colleague senators and congressmen to serve now in the Guard. bq. In the fighter-pilot world, we have a phrase we use when things are starting to get out of hand and it's time to stop and reset before disaster strikes. We say, "Knock it off." So, Mr. Kerry and your friends who want to slander the Guard: Knock it off. Read the whole thing though - it's wonderful writing and really skewers the people trying to tear down Bush on a non-issue...
From Little Green Footballs comes this astounding link to an email that J. Kerry sent out to a list. bq. The office of Senator John Kerry, the frontrunner in the Democratic presidential primary in the U.S., sent the Mehr News Agency an e-email saying that Kerry will try to repair the damage done by the incumbent president if he wins the election. The text of the e-mail follows. And just what would Kerry do to "repair the damage"? bq. Sadly, we are also painfully aware of how the actions and the attitudes demonstrated by the U.S. government over the past three years have threatened the goodwill earned by presidents of both parties over many decades and put many of our international relationships at risk. bq. It is in the urgent interests of the people of the United States to restore our country's credibility in the eyes of the world. America needs the kind of leadership that will repair alliances with countries on every continent that have been so damaged in the past few years, as well as build new friendships and overcome tensions with others. Excuse me??? One of the LGF readers posted a link to the United States Code, Title 18, that regulates this sort of communications: bq. Section 953. Private correspondence with foreign governments Any citizen of the United States, wherever he may be, who, without authority of the United States, directly or indirectly commences or carries on any correspondence or intercourse with any foreign government or any officer or agent thereof, with intent to influence the measures or conduct of any foreign government or of any officer or agent thereof, in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States, or to defeat the measures of the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.
From Front Page Magazine comes this story by Tatiana Menaker: bq. After arriving in the United States with a diploma from Leningrad University (a university with such alumni as Vladimir Lenin, Ayn Rand and President Vladimir Putin), I realized that I had the extremely unmarketable skills of a Marxist-Leninist philosophy professor. Moreover, English was not my strong suit. So I became a staff writer for a Russian newspaper in San Francisco and free-lanced for �migr� publications in New York and Los Angeles. Eventually, I decided �To bring my English to the level of my Russian" (as the Russian-born American novelist Vladimir Nabokov quipped) and enrolled at San Francisco State University. I majored in creative writing. bq. I couldn�t believe what I found. bq. Imagine the utter amazement of a refugee from a Communist country, where Marxism was forced on all students, now having to sink in a puddle of socialist propaganda again -- but this time in the middle of an American university! bq. Imagine the astonishment of a person who, after fighting the KGB and being a refusenik, finally comes so close to her dream of receiving a real education instead of indoctrination, only to find herself, once again, in the middle of a socialist brainwashing machine -- but this time in San Francisco. Heh... And one wonders why the "Academics" are so profoundly disconnected from reality...
Very interesting article from the February 18, 1970 issue of the Harvard Crimson magazine available online: bq. John Kerry: A Navy Dove Runs for Congress bq. The leading contenders for the caucus's nomination... ...and John F. Kerry, who favors immediate withdrawal, and was the first Vietnam veteran to run for Congress with a dovish platform on the War. And more: bq. Kerry said that the United Nations should have control over most of our foreign military operations. "I'm an internationalist. I'd like to see our troops dispersed through the world only at the directive of the United Nations." There is also a current article in the Crimson which talks about the 1970 article and pointing out examples of what he said then and comparing them with what he is saying now. Granted, people do change their minds over time but this guy is a weather-vane -- the political opinion shifts and his "convictions" and "feelings" shifts right along with it...
From the Miami Herald comes the news that one of the detainees at Guant�namo turns out to be none other than O.B.L.s chaufer... bq. A Yemeni captive at the Guant�namo Bay prison admits he was Osama bin Laden's $200-a-month driver in Afghanistan but says he was neither a member of al Qaeda nor a terrorist, his Pentagon-appointed lawyer said for the first time Tuesday. bq. Salim Ahmed Salim Hamdan, 34, is now held in isolation at the terrorism prison in Cuba in segregated accommodations for prisoners facing possible military tribunals, said his lawyer, Navy Lt. Cmdr. Charles Swift. bq. "He fully admits that he was an employee of Osama bin Laden" from 1997 until the U.S. attack on Afghanistan in 2001. "But he adamantly denies that he was ever a member of al Qaeda or engaged in any terrorist attack. He worked for Osama bin Laden solely for the purpose of supporting himself and his family." Now why do I have a hard time believing that he wasn't a terrorist and didn't know what was happening. With all the crap bin Laden was planning, he would have screened his support staff pretty closely from not only a security angle but an ideological one as well...
Interesting report in the BBC regarding an article published recently in Science on the 1918 Flu. bq. 1918 killer flu secrets revealed Scientists have worked out how the virus which caused the world's worst flu epidemic infected man. bq. They believe the virus, which claimed the lives of up to 50m people around the world, jumped from birds to humans. bq. The breakthrough, published in Science, should help doctors identify which future bird viruses pose a threat to man at an earlier stage. There have been a number of books written about this epidemic which killed 50 million people in less than one year. Fascinating and scary stuff...
This one is from the Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler's Emperor Darth Misha I where he posts a link to this page here which talks about the UN much vaunted humanitarian Oil for Food program... The one that allowed Iraq, undergoing crippling sanctions, to sell a limited amount of its oil to purchase food and medical supplies for its citizenry. That Oil for Food program... Check it out - this corrupt house of cards is unraveling and with the publication of the list of names of people who benefited from this program, it is unraveling faster. France delenda est!
From SF Gate website comes this story of our friends, the palestinian Arabs, and their efforts to investigate a deadly terrorist bombing: bq. The Palestinian investigation of a bombing that killed three security guards in a U.S. convoy in Gaza is increasingly testing the patience of U.S. diplomats. bq. After months of seemingly getting nowhere, investigators suddenly produced four suspects this weekend in what critics say is a crude attempt by Yasser Arafat to deflect growing pressure. bq. The charges against the four are vague -- manslaughter for planting bombs aimed at Israeli tanks that might have hit the convoy by mistake -- and the arrests have been widely met with scorn. bq. A senior Palestinian security official who declined to be named said Tuesday he does not believe the accused are the culprits. The real perpetrators could be linked to Arafat's own Fatah organization, or even to the Palestinian security forces, he said, but offered no evidence. And more: bq. "There is some suspicion I've heard by American officials that Arafat is dragging his feet on the investigation because the people who did it may get too close to Fatah," he told The Associated Press. And more: bq. It was the first attack on a U.S. target in more than three years of Israeli-Palestinian fighting. American officials responded with threats to cut back aid and diplomatic travel to the Palestinian areas until the bombers are caught. And more: bq. "We believe those on trial are not the real perpetrators," the official said. And more: bq. The suspects are not being charged with direct responsibility for the deaths, Boucher said. Instead, he said, the case is being made that "somehow it happened by accident in connection with planting bombs." bq. Reporters at the scene of the attack saw detonation wires leading to a small structure that offered the bombers a clear view, apparently ruling out mistaken identity. The Chevrolet Suburbans are unique to U.S. convoys. Arafat knows everything that goes on with his people -- this is how he has held onto the power despite all of his corruption and murder. There is no way that they could not know who did this. I love the comment about the case is being made that "somehow it happened by accident in connection with planting bombs." Arrrgghhh... As if the bombs were something that needed to be planted like a petunia or such...
From NY Times: bq. Prime Minister Tony Blair will meet the Libyan leader, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, "as soon as convenient," a British official said after the first formal visit here today by a Libyan foreign minister since 1969. bq. The foreign minister, Muhammad Abdul Rahman Shalgam, met Mr. Blair and Foreign Secretary Jack Straw for private talks this morning that centered on the "good progress" that Mr. Straw said had been made since Colonel Qaddafi announced on Dec. 19 that he was ridding his country of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs. bq. No weapons-related materials have been destroyed, but Western officials said that extensive surveys and plans were under way with help from American and British intelligence officials, plus experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, in The Hague. This is very cool - we had at the outset said that diplomatic relations would depend on Libya's efforts to remove their weapons program. They have shown a real effort on this and we are rewarding them with recognition. Meeting with Blair, Bush is probably being talked about in backchannels now and the article said that: bq. Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi of Italy today became the first Western leader to travel to Tripoli, Libya's capital, since Colonel Qaddafi's December declaration on weapons. A very strong show to the other nations that we mean what we say but also, that we play fair.
From the Reno Gazette Journal comes the story of a guy who burgled a restaurant and on exiting, felt the call of nature... bq. Police find burglar through yellow snow he left behind He should have taken care of it before he left home. bq. Elko police arrested Roger Gray, 25, on the basis of yellow snow he left after relieving himself on the rooftop of a restaurant that had been burglarized. bq. Investigators said the evidence produced enough DNA to link Gray to the scene. bq. He subsequently admitted a jewelry store burglary. Investigators are comparing his DNA and other evidence to determine whether he also might be implicated in burglaries at a pizza place and Elko�s J.C. Penney store. Heh...
From CNN comes this report on the American Diploma Project and their two year study: bq. Once considered a springboard to success, the high school diploma now has little meaning in determining whether students are ready for college or work, a coalition of education groups contends. bq. Only comprehensive change, including more rigorous English and math requirements for all students, would restore the significance of a high school graduation, according to a nearly two-year review by the American Diploma Project. And the people behind this report are not slouches: bq. The organization is an alliance of three groups whose leaders include top education officials in the administrations of former presidents Clinton and Reagan. Its report is based on comments from more than 300 educators and employers and an analysis of employment trends. They go on to say: bq. Lack of change, they say, will keep huge numbers of students heading for remedial college work or jobs for which they're unprepared. bq. "We haven't believed that the purpose of high school was to ensure every kid who graduated was ready to do college-level work. That is the big sea change that we're signaling here," said Michael Cohen, the former Clinton adviser and current president of Achieve, a nonprofit dedicated to helping states raise academic standards. bq. "Whether, as a parent, you think your kid is going to college or the workplace, those kids face the same rigorous demands, and they need to leave with the same core set of skills," he said. Jen and I both had rigorous schooling and people in our age group are the same. Children these days are not given this level of education and it shows in their everyday life. My first wife is a school teacher and her job is more custodial than pedagogical - keep the students in line and hope that they may learn something. This is one area where the country is falling apart and there are so many pointing fingers to causes.
From the Washongton Post comes this story of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and their drive to cut costs that result in them being the top retailer. bq. Most of the 2,100 workers here are poor migrants from the countryside who have come to this industrial hub in southern China for jobs that pay about $120 a month. A sign on the wall reminds them of their expendability in a nation with hundreds of millions of surplus workers: "If you don't work hard today, tomorrow you'll have to try hard to look for a job." bq. The calculations driving production here at Shenzhen Baoan Fenda Industrial Co. are no different from those governing global capitalism in general -- make more for less -- but it is applied with particular vigor on this shop floor. Sixty percent of the stereos coming off the line are for one customer: Wal-Mart Stores Inc., whose mastery at squeezing savings from its supply chain made it the world's largest company. bq. "The profit is really small," said Surely Huang, a factory engineer, speaking of the 350,000 stereos that Fenda agreed in March to supply to the retailer for $30 to $40 each. Huang said they sell for $50 in the United States. "We have to constantly cut costs to satisfy Wal-Mart." And one very intresting point: bq. As capital scours the globe for cheaper and more malleable workers, and as poor countries seek multinational companies to provide jobs, lift production and open export markets, Wal-Mart and China have forged themselves into the ultimate joint venture, their symbiosis influencing the terms of labor and consumption the world over. The article goes into greater detail on wages paid to workers (very low) and how working for Wal-Mart affects the ability to work with other comanies. Interesting stuff...
From Yahoo/Reuters It seems that in Finland, traffic fines are based on how much money you have. If you are worth a lot, your fines are high. bq. One of Finland's richest men has been fined a record 170,000 euros ($217,000) for speeding through the center of the capital, police said on Tuesday. bq. Jussi Salonoja, 27, heir to his family's sausage business, was caught driving 50 miles per hour in a 25 mph zone last Thursday, the police said. bq. Finnish traffic fines vary according to the offender's income and, according to tax office data, Salonoja's 2002 earnings were close to seven million euros. The article mentions that the previous "winners" were a computer multi-millionaire and the president of Nokia. This actually makes a lot of sense...
From Yahoo/AP comes this story about the whitehouse.com web site. (please note - whitehouse.com is definitley not safe for work) bq. The Whitehouse.com Web site, one of the best examples that the Internet isn't always what it seems, is getting out of the pornography business. Its owner says he's worried what his preschool-age son might think. bq. "He'll be going to kindergarten next year," said Daniel Parisi, who started the Web site in 1997 that is frequently confused with the official government site, www.whitehouse.gov. Parisi, 44, said he worried that his son's classmates might taunt him about the family's business. Not worried about what other kids may have thought for the last seven years, it's only when it hits close to home that he has second thoughts about it...
I was reading the QandO blog and ran into this observation. Jon was talking about the OPEC decision to limit Oil production to raise prices. bq. ...just one more reminder: OPEC is not our friend. bq. Fortunately, it may not always be depressing. The OPEC hike reminded me of this story. Remember that "Waste-to-Oil" process, in which turkey parts (for example) could be turned into oil? Well, it's progressing.... That story links to an article in the Philidelphia Inquirer which talks about a company called Changing World Technologies. These people are claiming to be able to economically turn waste into oil and if their process scales up sufficiently, it will compete with OPEC prices. Very cool stuff if it works.
A New Zealand company is making a product called Ike. Ike is an integrated hand-held unit that combines the following tools: GPS, Inclinometer, Compass, Laser distance meter, Digital Camera and Pocket PC. This tool allows you to map objects in the real world, take notes with the Pocket PC and Camera and go back to your office, download and work with the data. No word on price and the only two vendors listed don't have any product information on their websites.
From the Winnipeg Sun comes this story of a man fined $10,000 for going to church. bq. A resident in this remote northern Maine outpost along the Quebec border says he is being fined $10,000 US for doing something he has done most his life: going to church. Richard Albert, 52, said the U.S. Bureau of Customs and Border Protection recently notified him he faces two $5,000 fines for twice crossing from Quebec into Maine on a Sunday when the local border crossing station is closed. bq. Albert's home is 30 metres on the Maine side of the border. But the church is on the Canadian side of the border, which means he has to cross the boundary illegally to attend church services. bq. Albert, a U.S. citizen, said he has been crossing the U.S.-Canada border at his own discretion for more than 40 years. But security has been tightened since last May when the Bureau of Customs ended its Form 1 program. And more: bq. Albert had no trouble entering Canada because he and other U.S. residents along the border have special passes from the Canadian government that allow them to enter the country when its border stations are closed. bq. But U.S. law forbids crossing back into the United States when the U.S. border station is closed. Albert said he received a penalty notice in the mail last week saying no final decision had been made about his fines. He expects to hear in the next 60 days how much, if anything, he will have to pay. Our tax dollars at work here... Sheesh!
From the NY Times: bq. The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries decided today to cut its official limits on the output of crude by one million barrels a day beginning April 1, according to oil ministers attending a cartel meeting in Algeria. bq. The energy ministers had said stricter adherence to their current production quotas � currently 24.5 million barrels a day � was needed to avoid a sharp decline in the price of oil this spring. bq. The oil minister of Kuwait, Sheikh Ahmad al-Fahd al-Sabah, and other ministers confirmed that OPEC had agreed on the reduction in output and, Reuters reported, that OPEC had also agreed to eliminate about 1.5 million barrels a day of what is called quota busting � exceeding agreed-upon limits on production to take advantage of high prices. And more: bq. Revenue from international sales by OPEC, which accounts for about a third of world oil production, surged nearly 25 percent in 2003 � to $247 billion from $199 billion the previous year � as oil prices climbed to their highest annual average level in two decades, according to Cambridge Energy Research Associates. This windfall has made it difficult for the 11 members of OPEC, many of them under fiscal strain, to adhere to their own quotas. Now who are the nations that comprise OPEC? Algeria, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Venezuela. And according to this article: "Saudi Arabia has traditionally dominated the organization, owing to its enormous oil reserves..." Still, bottled water is several times more expensive than gasoline and people keep buying it.
From the AgWeb website comes this story: bq. Delaware's Agriculture Department today said a second poultry flock has tested posted with the bird flu virus. The department said the bird flu virus found in a commercial flock of roaster-type chickens in northern Sussex County was the same H7 strain found five miles away in southern Kent County late last week. bq. "The Delaware Department of Agriculture found Tuesday morning that avian influenza is present on a second farm in Delaware," it said in a statement. This is not the strain (H5N1) that is causing the problems in Asia but it is still a matter of concern.
From Fox News: bq. The White House, facing election-year questions about President Bush's military service, is releasing pay records and other information intended to support his assertion that he fulfilled his duty as a member of the Air National Guard during the Vietnam war. bq. The material, to be released Tuesday, was to include pay records and annual retirement point summaries to show that Bush served. bq. "These records clearly document that the president fulfilled his duty," White House press secretary Scott McClellan said. bq. The point summaries were released during the 2000 presidential campaign but the pay records were not obtained by the White House until late Monday from the Air Reserve Personnel Center in Denver, Colo., McClellan said. He said the center, apparently acting on its own, reviewed Bush's records and came up with the pay information. And will we have a retraction from W. Clark and company who made public statements saying that Bush was AWOL? General Clark? (crickets)
Strange news from Yahoo/AP: bq. Dr. Robert Atkins, whose popular diet stresses protein-rich meat and cheese over carbohydrates, weighed 258 pounds at his death and had a history of heart disease, a newspaper reported Tuesday. bq. Before his death, he had suffered a heart attack, congestive heart failure and hypertension, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing a report by the city medical examiner. bq. At 258 pounds, the 6-foot-tall Atkins would have qualified as obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's body-mass index calculator. Physician heal thyself?
From the DVDFile.Com website: bq. After years of waiting, hype and hope, the rumors can at last be laid to rest: the holy grail of DVD will finally be released this September. Yes, it is the original Star Wars trilogy: Episodes IV: A New Hope, Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (which many regard as the best in the series) and Episode VI: Return of the Jedi. bq. While a full press release has yet to be issued, both Lucasfilm and Fox Home Entertainment confirmed today that the trilogy will touch down on September 21st as a four-disc set, available in both anamorphic widescreen and full screen versions, containing the three films plus a bonus fourth disc with extras, a la the top-selling Adventures of Indiana Jones set released late last year. The films will not be sold separately, at least initially, according to Fox representatives. Most excellent (digging credit card out of wallet)!!!
They just keep getting bigger and bigger - very cool! This is reported in DP Review: bq. SimpleTech, Inc. a designer, manufacturer and marketer of custom and open-standard memory solutions based on Flash memory and DRAM technologies, today announced the industry's highest capacity CompactFlash with an 8 GB Type II card using the Company's patented stacking technology. The Company also announced 2, 4 and 5 GB Type I cards and a significant increase to the write speed of its entire ProX line of CompactFlash cards. Price will be steep ($6K) but for the professional photographer, this will give you days and days of shooting capacity and the price will drop as more companies develop this capacity.
- The possibility of a longshoreman strike makes you panic.
- You don't understand why anyone would buy less than a 20 lb. bag of rice.
- You would serve Spam as a meat for dinner.
- You can taste the difference between teriyaki and kal-bi.
- You know what a plumeria is.
- You don't wear your shoes in the house.
- You know why there are alphabets on trees or any posts on graduation day.
- You know what and when "Lei Day" is.
- You know what a "stink eye" is and how to give it.
- You know what nationality girl (more than one) would put tape on her eyelids and why.
- You can correctly pronounce Kalanianaole, Kalakaua, Aiea, Likelike, karaoke, and Pipeline.
- You know the items in the Big Breakfast at McDonald's.
- You know what one "huli huli chicken"Hawaiian-style barbecue chicken is.
- You can name 3 varieties of mangos.
- You have (or know someone who has) at least one family member whose name is "junior boy" or "tita".
- The words, "da kine," are a normal part of your conversation.
- You know the difference between being "hapa"half-haole and being hapai."pregnant
- You give directions using mauka and makai.
- You know what "Hawaii Pono'i"The Hawaii state national anthem is (and you know the words).
- You know what it takes to get into Kamehameha School.
- Someone says da word "UKU" and your head starts itching!
- You raise your chin fo say "wassup" instead of nodding.
- When making "Shaka", the back of your hand is facing out.
- You say, "Nori" not seaweed paper.
- You say "Brah," not "Bro."
- You despise the movie "North Shore."
- Your jokes are 'bout Portugese people, not Polish people.
- You laugh at couples wearing cheesy matching Aloha attire.
- You get one pair "rubbah slippahs" (not flip flops).
- You e-mail people in pidgin.
- You know what (and where) "Morgan's Corner" is (and it still scares you!)
- 70 degrees is "freezing!"
- You use "tako" instead of worms or fluorescent pink fish eggs for bait.
- You got dirty lickins' with "da rubbah slippah" when was small kidtime.
- You can walk through Waianae and no get mobbed.
- You know that "Kukui nut" is not one mental person.
- You give Kahi Mohala's numba out to one guy/girl you no like.
- You call it "saimin" not "Top Ramen" (Sapporo Ichiban mo' bettah).
- The surf report is on your speed dial and you always get one tide calendar on your wall.
- Your local kids wear slippas and shorts in November in Michigan(inside da house, of course).
- "Dressing up" means shorts and one Aloha shirt.
- You call it "shave ice", not snow cone or shaved ice.
- Rainbow Drive-Inn is a special date.
- You go Kam, not Aloha, swap meet.
- You know pineapples no grow in trees.
- You know what Li Hing Mui is and you put it on everything (or put RED Li Hing Mui in da TEQUILA!!! YAAAAAHOOO!!).
- You ask for shoyu and not soy sauce.
- You call public transportation "Uncle Frank's limosine" or"da BUS" (and that's the official name too!)
- You need one relative to get one state job.
- Da Lt. Governor is your cousin (or your mother's brother's father's sister's uncle's son).
- You know what da H3 is, but you scared drive on it cause stay haunted.
- You search your car for pork before you go over da Pali.
- You go to Neiman Marcus "jus fo' look." (AKA - Needless Markups)
- You can name da cast of Hawaii 5-O.
- Da mainland people no can understand when you talk.
- You ask for "fruit punch" at McDonald's in da Mainland. (Wat? Nomo!).
- You eat spam musubi on a regular basis.
- You wear slippahs almost everywhere.
- You can be wearing boros and nobody tinks nothin'.
- You like ume, daikon, and kim chee betta than pickles.
- When you gotta go bathroom, you say "I going shi-shi."
- When you try explain the location of something to your friend, you use landmarks instead of street names.
- You go Kam Bowl to eat Ox Tail Soup.
- You tink Baywatch Hawaii is stupid, cause they dunno how fo ack!
- You know da difference between sushi and sashimi.
- You know your hemajang pickup truck going pass da safety inspection cause you know da auntie of da cousin of da uncle of the uddah cousin of da uncle who's your "auntie" (he one mahu) and dey get one bruddah-in-law who work fo da service station.
- You get one "beach car."
- You pass dis e-mail to all da "locals" in yo' da kine e-mail.
From the Arkansas NBC affiliate comes this story: bq. A Wal-Mart cashier thought there was something suspicious about a customer at an Arkansas store. bq. It may have been the handcuffs he was wearing. It may have been the bolt cutters he was buying. It may have been the hour -- 4:30 in the morning. bq. The clerk called police after completing the sale. Officers caught the man, just minutes later. bq. It turned out he'd been arrested in Louisiana the night before, but kicked out a window in a police car and fled. Heh... Got to give the guy points for at least trying.
Great collection of quotes from a little-known but wonderful writer from the early 1900's bq. "An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered; an adventure is an inconvenience rightly considered." bq. "Among the rich you will never find a really generous man even by accident. They may give their money away, but they will never give themselves away; they are egotistic, secretive, dry as old bones. To be smart enough to get all that money you must be dull enough to want it." bq. "A detective story generally describes six living men discussing how it is that a man is dead. A modern philosophic story generally describes six dead men discussing how any man can possibly be alive." bq. "I think the oddest thing about the advanced people is that, while they are always talking about things as problems, they have hardly any notion of what a real problem is." Lots more at the website...
Interesting observation by Roger L. Simon on the David Kay's blanket statement on WMDs: bq. I couldn�t help wondering, however, why no one (certainly not Russert) ever asked him what I think is the basic question underlying the issue du jour. How could David Kay possibly know there are no significant WMDs in Iraq? bq. I have lived in California for over thirty years (a state which, as we have heard ad nauseum, is about the same size as that Middle Eastern country) and I wouldn�t know where to begin to find WMDs here, if someone really wanted to hide them, even if I had five thousand people working with me, make that thirty-five thousand (which Kay didn�t). A suitcase or two or even five of biological weapons could disappear in the Sierra Nevada or�more to the point perhaps�in the Mojave or Anza Borrego Deserts, not to mention Death Valley or Joshua Tree National Monument, in a heartbeat. As most in my generation know, acres of marijuana fields have been growing secretly in Humboldt County for decades. Repeat: that�s acres. So I don�t get it? Maybe it�s easier to find WMDs than pot plantations, but I wouldn�t think so. Nevertheless, Dr. Kay was supposed to have wrapped this up in six months. I don�t believe it. I think his report is factually meaningless, but what do I know? Heh...
From Tech Central Station comes an article on Global Warming: bq. It wasn't long after I became a research scientist that I learned that scientists aren't the unbiased, impartial seekers of truth I always thought they were. Scientists have their own agendas, philosophies, pre-conceived notions, and pet theories. These views end up influencing their science. Nowhere does this have a greater impact on the science than in global warming theory. And more: bq. For a complex problem like climate change, assumptions abound. Early in the climate modeling days, confidence was high as physicists used to working on well-defined problems with a limited number of variables thought they had the answer. We meteorologists (by training) were always more skeptical because we understood how complex weather is. Enter the scientist "heavy hitters" that are savvy public speakers, maybe a Nobel laureate in some unrelated field of science, all having strong opinions about what the government should be doing to help "save the Earth" and you have a recipe for bad policy. Now, the climate modelers are learning how complex the climate system really is (surprise!). The tendency for scientists to rush to judgment isn't the fault of science -- it's just human nature. Worth checking out - the author, Roy Spencer is a principal research scientist for University of Alabama in Huntsville. In the past, he was served as Senior Scientist for Climate Studies at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Dr. Spencer is the recipient of NASA's Medal for Exceptional Scientific Achievement and the American Meteorological Society's Special Award for his satellite-based temperature monitoring work. He knows his stuff...
Really fascinating article in the Wall Street Journal Opinion page regarding the UN Oil for Food program and possible corruption therein. I have written about this program here, here, here, here and here. Author Therse Raphael writes: bq. On Dec. 5, during a trip to Baghdad, Claude Hankes-Drielsma faxed an urgent letter to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan. Mr. Drielsma, the U.K. Chairman of Roland Berger Strategy Consultants, had recently been appointed to advise the Iraqi Governing Council. What he saw in Baghdad left him shocked. "As a result of my findings here, combined with earlier information," he wrote, "I most strongly urge the U.N. to consider appointing an independent commission to review and investigate the 'Oil for Food Programme.' Failure to do so might bring into question the U.N.'s credibility and the public's perception of it. . . . My belief is that serious transgressions have taken place and may still be taking place." bq. Just how serious these transgressions were became clear late last month, when the Iraqi daily Al Mada published a partial list of names, compiled by Iraq's oil ministry, of those whom Saddam Hussein rewarded with allocations of Iraqi oil. Mr. Hankes-Drielsma, who says he was among the first to see the list in early December, says it is based on numerous contracts and other detailed documents and was compiled at the request of the Iraqi Governing Council. And more - this is talking about the Iraqi list recently brought to light that documents Saddam's gifts of cheap oil to people willing to help him out: bq. One of the most eye-catching names on the list is easy to miss as it's the sole entry under a country one would not normally associate with Iraq--Panama. The entry says: "Mr. Sevan." That's the same name as that of the U.N. Assistant Secretary-General Benon V. Sevan, a Cyprus-born, New York-educated career U.N. officer who was tapped by Kofi Annan in October 1997 to run the oil-for-food program. And more - this is talking about how the UN tailored the Oil for Food program to benefit Saddam: bq. Indeed, it was clear from the outset that Saddam would be able to use the program to benefit his friends. The 1995 U.N. resolution setting out the program--Resolution 986--bends over backwards to reassure Iraq that Oil-for-Food would not "infringe the sovereignty or territorial integrity" of Iraq. And to that end it gave Saddam power to decide on trading partners. "A contract for the purchase of petroleum and petroleum products will only be considered for approval if it has been endorsed by the Government of Iraq," states the program's procedures. Predictably, Saddam exploited the program for influence-buying and kickbacks, and filled his coffers by smuggling oil through Syria and elsewhere. With Oil-for-Food and smuggling, he was able to sustain his domestic power base and maintain a lavish lifestyle for his inner circle. UN Delanda Est
Strange news story from Yahoo/AP (with a hat tip to Little Green Footballs): bq. Gore Says America 'Betrayed' by Bush NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Al Gore, who lost the presidency to George W. Bush in 2000, assailed the commander in chief Sunday, accusing him of betraying the nation by invading Iraq. bq. "He took America on an ill-conceived foreign adventure, dangerous to our troops, that was preordained and planned before 9-11," Gore told Tennessee Democrats at a party event. Let's see now Al - you and Bill spent eight years practicing appeasement and diplomacy while Pakistan was shopping it's nuke technology to every tinpot dictator on the planet, while North Korea was laughing behind your backs on the nuclear non-proliferation accords, while Saddam was being effectively contained with UN Resolutions... Oh yeah, that issue with selling military technology to the Chinese in exchange for campaign contributions - mustn't forget that one... Pompous windbag
Very cool news from DP Review A couple of years ago, a California startup Foveon developed a new kind of imaging sensor which stacks the Red, Green and Blue detectors on top of each other rather than side by side. This allows much more resolution for a given pixel count. A couple of cameras have been made with the new chipset but they have always been high-end 'professional' units. Now, Polaroid is coming out with an under-$400 camera using this new technology.
From Florida Today comes this story of a tower and the efforts of some people to save it. bq. NASA delays tower destruction Preservationists will try to save historic pad CAPE CANAVERAL -- NASA delayed plans to dispose of the hazardous remnants of a historic Apollo launch tower this week to see whether a preservation group can come up with enough money to turn the gantry into a national monument. Since 1983, the old Apollo launch umbilical tower has sat in a secure area at Kennedy Space Center. In the near future, the structures will be decontaminated and then cut up for scrap, if it can't be saved. Photo by Michael R. Brown, FLORIDA TODAY bq. Known as Launch Umbilical Tower 1, the gantry was the starting point for eight Apollo and Skylab flights, including the flight that took astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to the moon in July 1969. This is a hard one to call - the tower was dismantled in 1983 and moved to a storage yard. Parts of it have been put into museums so what's left is not the complete structure. Still, this is the place where people left to go walk on the moon. This is history in the flesh...
A woman for children, a boy for pleasure and a melon for ecstasy From the Telegraph comes this story of caring teacher-student relations: bq. On his hospital bed last week, 16-year-old Abid Tanoli sat listless and alone, half of his body covered by burns that all but destroyed both his eyes and left his face horribly disfigured. The teenager talked, with difficulty, of how his life had been destroyed since the fateful day in June 2002 when he refused to have sex with his teacher at a religious school in Pakistan. The boy was horrifically injured in an acid attack after he rebuffed the Muslim cleric's sexual advances. Now, he has alarmed Pakistan's powerful religious establishment by pressing charges against his alleged assailants. And more: bq. Abid was blinded and maimed in the assault, which he says came shortly after he rejected sexual demands from the Islamic teacher at a madrassa in a crowded, lower middle-class district of Karachi. "He threatened to ruin me for life," Abid recalled, "but I didn't take him seriously. I just stopped going to the madrassa". Abid, who was 14 at the time, told neither parents nor friends what had happened because, he said, he was ashamed. A few days later, as he played with his brothers and sister at home, he said that his religious teacher - accompanied by three associates - broke into the house, bolted the door and threw acid over him, screaming: "This should be a lesson for your life." Abid was taken to a public hospital, where doctors told him that he would be scarred for life. And yet more: bq. Haroon Tanoli, Abid's father, met strong resistance when he tried to take up his son's case with officials at the school. He says that they offered to help him secure a cash payment from the alleged attackers, provided that he did not involve the police. Since then, he has been threatened with harsh consequences for refusing to back down. "I despise hypocrites who sport huge beards in the name of religion and hinder the passage of justice in the name of Islam," said Mr Tanoli. "I had a beard, and all my four sons were studying in a madrassa. However, following this incident, the first thing I did was to pull my children out of the madrassa - and shave off my beard." Even as Abid was receiving treatment, the religious authorities pressed the hospital to discharge him. Mr Tanoli managed to get him admitted to a different hospital, where he is being treated free, although the family cannot afford an operation to save his sight. Mr Tanoli refuses to back down, despite being offered one million rupees (�12,000) by the teacher's relations if he withdraws the charges. He has moved to a secret location for his own safety. Emphasis is mine and Haroon's quote is one to remember: "I despise hypocrites who sport huge beards in the name of religion and hinder the passage of justice in the name of Islam" Again, I will say that the individuals who worship with Islam are fine, I have had the extreme pleasure of meeting a lot of them in my life. It is the corrupt aging governmental structure that needs to go now...
Here is the photo: Here's the news item (from here): bq. A pickled "dragon" that looks as if it might once have flown around Harry Potter's Hogwarts has been found in a garage in Oxfordshire, England. bq. The baby dragon, in a sealed jar, was discovered with a metal tin containing paperwork in old-fashioned German of the 1890s. bq. Allistair Mitchell, who was asked to investigate the dragon by a friend, David Hart, who discovered it in his garage, speculates that German scientists may have attempted to use the dragon to hoax their English counterparts at the end of the 19th century, when rivalry between the countries was intense. bq. "At the time, scientists were the equivalent of today's pop stars. It would have been a great propaganda coup for the Germans if it had come off," Mr Mitchell said. Someone somewhere (and maybe some-when) is chortling over this one...
From the Guardian comes a story of a frustrated little man on the periphery of the world stage: bq. Blix says war leaders acted like salesmen The former UN chief weapons inspector Hans Blix weighed into the controversy over weapons of mass destruction yesterday when he accused Tony Blair and George Bush of behaving like insincere salesmen who "exaggerated" intelligence in an attempt to win support for war. Blix is the UN Weapons Inspector who was supposed to enforce all the UN Resolutions and to bring Saddam to the table regarding his WMDs. Instead, he caved and let his people be shown only sites that the Baath minders wanted them to see (But this is our finest military weapons site sir!!! Trust me on this sir...) I don't see diplomacy or intelligence gathering, I see damage control for the UN and it ain't pretty.
From ABC News comes reports of looting and mayhem in the port city of St. Marc: bq. Hundreds of Haitians looted TV sets, mattresses and sacks of flour from shipping containers Sunday in this port town, one of several communities seized by rebels in a bloody uprising against President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. bq. Using felled trees, flaming tires and car chassis, residents blocked streets throughout St. Marc a day after militants drove out police in gunbattles that killed two people. Many residents have formed neighborhood groups to back insurgents in their push to expel the president. bq. "After Aristide leaves, the country will return to normal," said Axel Philippe, 34, among dozens massed on the highway leading to St. Marc, a city of about 100,000 located some 45 miles northwest of the capital, Port-au-Prince. And why? bq. Anger has been brewing in Haiti since Aristide's party won flawed legislative elections in 2000. The opposition refuses to join in any new vote unless the president resigns; he insists on serving out his term, which ends in 2006. Interesting that ABC News would report a corrupt and swung election is "flawed". Aristide was assured of victory because his minions controlled the polling places guaranteeing his victory. How is Aristide doing as "president" anyway - let's look at the CIA World Fact Book for Haiti -- OK- they share the Island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic: Population - Haiti 7.5 Mil, D.R. 8.7 Mil Infant Mortality - Haiti 76/1K, D.R. 34/1K HIV Infection - Haiti 6.1%, D.R. 2.5% Purchasing Power Per Capita - Haiti $1.4K, D.R. $6.3K GDP Growth - Haiti -0.9%, D.R. 4.1% We can see from these that Aristide really cares about his people (high infant mortality and AIDS rate) and is creating an economic powerhouse in the Caribbean (negative Gross Domestic Product growth). I wish the people well to be free of that turkey. The sooner the power-brokers and despots get thrown out of office the better...
Back in the dim recesses of computer pre-history, there was a wonderful machine and operating system called the Amiga. One of the key advantages was that the hardware was very 'television friendly" in that it could record broadcast quality TV, generate it and play it back. In 1991, a couple of people at a company called NewTek wrote the "killer app" for the Amiga called the Video Toaster. For about $5K for the hardware and software, you could replace about $250,000 worth of dedicated video editing gear. Now (as they say in the review): "the Amiga Video Toaster allowed anyone that could afford to buy a car get into video production." The source code for this software has now been released into the public domain. The link for this is here The forums for the various modules are here Very cool to see... The code was written for the proprietary Amiga Operating System and hardware but it should not be long before trees are spun off for other platforms.
Blogging will resume in a couple hours. Stacked about two cords of the five cords we got Saturday. Tired and sore - going to lay down for a bit...
I'm headed up to Mt. Baker this weekend. Project for this weekend: We are receiving five cords of wood. Two cords (a cord is 128 Cu. Ft. or a pile 4' * 4' * 8') are log rounds bucked to 18" length, three cords are cut-up recycled hardwood shipping pallets. The rounds need to be split (renting a hydraulic splitter for that job) and everything needs to be stacked into the outdoor stalls so they will be out from under the rain. Fun fun fun... Back Sunday afternoon, blogging will resume then...
From The Guardian We knew the economy was going well in the USA but a number of other countries seem to be going great guns as well too... From the article: bq. The US economy strengthened considerably in December, leading the global economic recovery and leaving Europe and Japan behind, the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) said today. And more: bq. Joseph Stiglitz, the Nobel-prize-winning economist - and a critic of US economic policy - predicted that Mr Snow would oppose any efforts by the G7 to counter the fall in the dollar. In interviews with the French media, Mr Stiglitz, a former chief economist at the World Bank, also called on the European Central Bank (ECB) to act to bring down the euro's strong exchange rate against the dollar. bq. "The Bush administration will make no concession," Mr Stiglitz told the French business daily La Tribune, ahead of the meeting of G7 finance ministers and central bankers in Boca Raton, Florida. "George Bush needs the fall in the dollar to support American growth and to be re-elected, even if that is to the detriment of Europe." OK - let me get this straight... Mr. Stiglitz wants us to reign in our growth because otherwise it might hurt Europe? How about if Europe got it's collective socialist noggins out of the sand and started bringing its economic practices into the current century. Getting the corruption and nepotism out of government might be a great place to start...
From No Watermelons Allowed comes this link to the Mollecular Expressions website. This place is deep -- be prepared to spend a lot of time drilling into it. Sample links: Powers of Ten (here) Featured Microscopist - image gallery (here) Burgers and Fries (here) and The Silicon Zoo (here) This last one is cute - chip designers often sign their work by putting a visible structure into the 'wiring' of the chip. A classic example is this one which is currently roaming the surface of Mars. Where's the Kaboom? There's supposed to be an Earth shattering Kaboom? Heh...
From Sify News, India comes a Kerry comment and some people's response: bq. Sikh organizations in the US have taken strong exception to reported remarks of current democratic frontrunner in the US presidential race Senator John Kerry, for what they called,"singling out adherents of Sikh religion as terrorists" and demanded an apology from him. bq. The Sikh Mediawatch and Resource Task Force (SMART) quoted Kerry as saying during his campaign in Oklahoma City on January 31 that terrorism did not begin on September 11, 2001. He went on to give examples of Northern Ireland, the Basque separatists in Spain and the Sikhs in India. Ouch! If Kerry knew anything at all about Sikhs, he would not have made this statement. I hope he has the cojones to own up to his error and issue a gracious apology. The Basques too. The Irish would probably like to hear from him as well.
From Yahoo/AP comes this story: bq. Surgeons Start Two-Headed Baby Operation SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic - A team of surgeons began operating Friday on a Dominican infant born with a second head, a risky surgery that doctors say they believe to be the first of its kind. bq. Led by a Los Angles-based neurosurgeon, the medical team planned to spend about 13 hours removing Rebeca Martinez's second head, which has a partially formed brain, ears, eyes and lips. bq. Eighteen surgeons, nurses and doctors were to take several rotations to cut off the undeveloped tissue, clip the veins and arteries and close the skull of the 7-week-old girl using a bone graft from another part of her body. bq. "The head on top is growing faster than the lower one," said Dr. Jorge Lazareff, director of pediatric neurosurgery at the University of California at Los Angeles' Mattel Children's Hospital. "If we don't operate, the child would barely be able to lift her head at 3 months old." The Yahoo site has a slide show with closeups of the baby - nature can be strange at times... Best of luck little Rebeca!
Very cool - from CNN News bq. A species of monkey thought likely to be extinct may still be swinging through the trees in Africa, according to an anthropologist. bq. The Miss Waldron's red colobus monkey was declared likely extinct in 2000 by a team that included W. Scott McGraw, an assistant professor of anthropology at Ohio State University. None had been seen since 1978, but McGraw said he has evidence the species survives. bq. Two years ago, McGraw retrieved the skin of a monkey a hunter killed in Ivory Coast that had the markings of the red colobus, he said. The pelt had the species' typical black hair on its back with reddish fur on its forehead and thighs, along with freshly dried blood. bq. Recently, he received a photo from an associate in Africa that shows a dead red colobus. McGraw is convinced the photo is genuine, he said. And more: John Oates, an anthropology professor at Hunter College in New York City, also was part of the team that declared the species likely to be extinct. He said McGraw's findings do not surprise him. "We didn't dismiss the possibility that a few hung on somewhere," Oates said. "But no one's managed to see one jumping around in the trees." The researchers' work in 2000 suggested that the red colobus could have been the first species of primates to disappear in 200 years and warned that other species could soon become extinct unless deforestation and hunting were managed. Ivory Coast forbids hunting, but the ban is not strongly enforced, McGraw said. This is a hard thing to call - the Ivorians need to farm and hunt. The idea of laws to protect the environment is a good one but there needs to be an economic alternative in place before the people will switch lifestyles. Eco-Tourism is a good start - easy to start up and fast returns. The government needs to be relatively stable though - no invasions from France. There are lots of long term ideas as well (cottage high-tech industries) but they would require a relatively well-educated populace and there seems to be no indication of the Ivorian government going down that road at any time in the near future.
From the Indian Express comes this interesting story: bq. Warhead design ties Libya nuke project to Khan WASHINGTON, FEBRUARY 4: About two weeks ago, a 747 aircraft chartered by the US government landed at Dulles Airport here carrying a single piece of precious cargo: a small box containing warhead designs that US officials believe were sold to Libya by the underground network linked to Khan. The warhead designs were the first hard evidence that the secret network provided its customers far more than just the technology. Libyan officials have told investigators that they bought the blueprints from dealers who are part of that network, apparently for more than $50 million. What the Libyans purchased, in the words of an American weapons expert, was both the kitchen equipment ��and the recipes.�� Experts say the designs resemble warheads that China tested in late 1960s and passed on to Pakistan decades ago. bq. US officials say it is difficult to believe that Pakistan�s nuclear secrets could have been exported without the knowledge of some in the military and the Pakistani intelligence service, the ISI, especially since some shipments were made on Pakistani military aircraft. Whoever was responsible, the warhead design appears now to have been a sought-after prize of the network of nuclear middlemen and parts producers that US officials say is being broken up, from Germany to Malaysia, and from Dubai to the Netherlands. ��Ever since the Libya revelations, there have been a lot of detentions,�� one US official said. As I blogged here, it is very good that the Libyan WMD materials are being shipped to the USA and nobody else. We have the technology to take them apart and find out where they got the designs, machine tools and materials to manufacture them. For an example - for any metal, there are always small ammounts of impurities and these vary depending on where it were mined and refined. By quantifying the impurities, we can determine the country of origin with pretty amazing accuracy. Good to see this happening
From BBC News: bq. Powell says nuclear ring broken The world's biggest network in nuclear proliferation has been broken with the exposure of a top Pakistani scientist, the US secretary of state has said. Colin Powell said he would be speaking to the Pakistani president to ensure no remnants of the network were left. More Dominoes now please...
From the Globe and Mail: bq. UN doubts bird flu linked with pigs Hanoi � The human toll in Asia's bird flu crisis rose Friday to 18, as UN officials in Rome moved to play down test results suggesting that swine might also be carriers of the deadly virus. bq. Doctors in Vietnam announced the deaths Friday of a six-year-old girl from southern Dong Nai province and a 24-year-old man from central Lam Dong province. They were the country's 12th and 13th human victims. Thailand has had five deaths. The CDC has more info here UN groups like the World Health Organization do excellent work. I grouse about the UN a lot in these pages but I should clarify that I am grousing about the ineffective and corrupt bunch of marxist despots in the Security Council and not the people in the smaller organizations who are actually doing good work...
Once again, it's Friday and time for V. D. Hanson's column in National Review Online: bq. Weapons of Mass Hysteria If anything, the war was about 100,000 corpses too late. bq. The United States has lost less than 350 American dead in actual combat in Iraq, deposed the worst tyrant on the planet, and offered the first real hope of a humane government in the recent history of the Middle East � and is being roundly condemned rather than praised for one of the most remarkable occurrences of our age. Yet a careful postbellum anatomy of the recent WMD controversy makes the original case for the war stronger rather weaker. bq. If the United States went to war with Iraq only because of the threat of WMDs; if the mass murdering of Saddam Hussein was found on examination to be highly exaggerated; if we had some secret plan for stealing the oil of Iraq, if Saddam Hussein posed no future threat to the United States or its allies; if the war resulted in a worse future for Iraq, the United States, and the surrounding Middle East; and if the administration deliberately constructed false intelligence evidence to advance such an unnecessary war that resulted in misery rather than hope, then an apology is needed now. But so far, that has simply not been the case. Read the whole thing - he takes the WMD people apart point by point with eight observations.
From the Library of Congress Today in History website comes this tidbit regarding our friends, the French: bq. On February 6, 1778, France and the fledgling United States of America signed the Treaty of Amity and Commerce and the Treaty of Alliance in Paris, France. The Treaty of Amity and Commerce recognized the United States as an independent nation and promoted trade between France and the United States. The Treaty of Alliance created a military alliance against Great Britain, stipulating American independence as a condition of peace. The treaty also required France and the U.S. to concur in any peace agreement. bq. Secretly aiding the American colonies since 1775, France's helpfulness was spurred by resentment over the loss of American territory to Britain in the French and Indian War. In 1776, the Continental Congress sent diplomats Benjamin Franklin, Silas Deane, and Arthur Lee to secure a formal alliance with France. American victory over the British in the Battle of Saratoga convinced the French that the Americans were committed to independence and worthy partners to a formal alliance. Over the course of the war, France contributed an estimated 12,000 soldiers and 32,000 sailors to the American war effort. How times have changed...
Great writeup in the Sceptics Dictionary on the word 'Natural' and how this really doesn't mean anything when it comes to medical remedys... bq. Just because something is natural does not mean that it is good, safe or healthy. Herbs are natural but they are also drugs when used in the diagnosis, treatment, or prevention of a disease. The chemicals which comprise synthetic drugs are natural. St. John's Wort (Hypericum perforatum) is natural, but it is a drug. Why do some people say that they prefer St. John's Wort to drugs for depression? bq. If someone said that he preferred Irish whiskey to alcohol, we'd think he was confused. St. John's Wort contains hypericin, which inhibits monoamine oxidase, a chemical associated with depression. In other words, St. John's Wort (hypericin) is an "MAO inhibitor". MAO inhibitors are commonly prescribed by medical doctors to treat depression. Heh...
Nice meditation in the NY Times on snowshoeing and the history of the snowshoes themselves. bq. Making Tracks in a World Gone Silent One morning after a fresh snow of two feet, on top of another two or three feet already on the ground, a friend and I walked down a steep hill � all the downed timber covered in snow, as were the big boulders and other obstacles that would make walking in summer difficult. It was as if the woods had been flooded and we were navigating through them in a small canoe. The article links to Tubbs Snowshoes - in business since 1906 and pretty much the leader in design. Hat tip to dangerousmeta
I went over to the Belmont Club earlier this evening to find that Wretchard has several new posts up. One of them made me sit up and go "Hmm..." Both of my parents were active in World War Two. My Mom was a chemist doing work with oxides of Uranium and my Dad was a physicist doing work on RADAR (if you have ever used a copy of the Halliday and Resnick textbook, my father is that Halliday -- and they are both in their mid-80's and doing great.) Anyway, Wretchard pointed out that another search for Weapons of Mass Destruction happened 60 years ago and that search didn't find anything either. At that point - well, I'll let him take over: bq. Hitler's WMDs In 1939, Albert Einstein was enjoying a sailing vacation on Long Island when fellow physicist Leo Szilard approached him on what he described as a matter of supreme importance. A large stockpile of uranium ore from Africa was in danger of being transferred to Nazi Germany, a country with which America was then at peace. Although seemingly innocent, it might be the last remaining step necessary to complete what America must prevent. It was absolutely important, Szilard argued, that President Roosevelt be made aware of the danger to the world of the imminent development of weapons of mass destruction, notably an Atomic Bomb, by Adolph Hitler. Einstein wrote a letter to Roosevelt warning of a Nazi nuclear weapon, reproduced here, which eventually helped spur the establishment of the Manhattan Project. bq. Hitler, too, believed he was building an Atomic Bomb, but was apparently misled by his scientific advisers, many of who understood too well what such a weapon would mean in the hands of a maniac, and quietly slackened their efforts. At the end of the war, for a variety of reasons, including the Allied aerial destruction of Nazi industrial resources, American searchers who had believed they were racing neck-and-neck with Hitler for the development of nuclear weapons found no operational weapons of mass destruction. The Nazis had been far from making an A-Bomb. There had been an intelligence failure. Yeah - it is easy to point fingers here. I was all set to link to this page with all sorts of snarky quotes from US Democrats regarding Iraqi WMD's but got to talking with Jen and she brought up the real point that Bush did blow it. Rather, the intellegence provided to Bush blew it. There are other reasons for removing Saddam's government and we are seeing tangible benefits in other countries - Libya and Pakistan are waking up. Life in Iraq is getting pretty good as well - people gripe about the power outages but they had those under S.H. - schools are opening, there used to be only a few newspapers, now there are over 280 in Bagdhad alone.
From BoingBoing comes a link to Kevin Sites weblog. (Kevin is an independent journalist and is currently in Iraq writing for NBC News - his weblog is a personal site though.) This is the story of an artist and his work: bq. Portrait of the Dictator as an Old Man Wisam Rady was working in his studio as usual--when he first saw the video of Saddam Hussein on a tiny five-inch black and white television. A mesmerizing image of the ragged former dictator, fresh from his "spyder hole" baring his tonsils for all the world to see. How the mighty had fallen, Wisam thought, the indignity of it all. The once defiant ruler of Iraq, now being inspected for lice. It was too much. Wisam wept. Uncontrollably. Tears of joy. There was no consoling him in his happiness. So he went to Ferdus Square, where Saddam's statue had been so famously toppled after the war. And there he danced until dark. And more - talking about his work as an editorial cartoonist for the Baath party newspaper: bq. Saddam's Ministry of Information, which oversaw the work of writers and artists during the regime, provided a list to each Iraqi newspaper of how to portray Saddam Hussein (as a symbolic Falcon), the Iraqi flag (always as a top banner,) the military (strong and heroic). bq. He shows me a collection of yellowing newspapers containing his work. They are quite nearly, I think, the black and white notes of martial music in ink. The drawings, with their flapping flags, birds of prey and unflinching defenders of the homeland, are reminiscent of the melodramatic, patriotic excess of the old Soviet propaganda machine. Wisam could do it with his eyes----and his heart closed. And did. bq. But now he uses both again. And this is what he has produced: there on the canvas in front of him in his studio, is the unmistakable visage of post-capture Saddam Hussein, his eyes vacant, his hand touching his scruffy beard ala Rodin's " The Thinker." bq. It is done in an almost Renaissance-quality, chiaroscuro. And like the work of say, a Vermeer, it is has allegorical qualities. For perched upon Saddam's shoulders are four gray rats. And more - talking about his childhood in the city of Ath Thawra: bq. It is also, the inspiration for the rats on Saddam's shoulders. bq. "There were no rats Ath Thawra," Wisam says, "And then one morning we awoke and the city was infested with them. "It was a scheme by Saddam to make the people sick." Or so the people of the city believe. There are some photos of his art on the site. Wisam's name turned up no hits on Google but hopefully that will change - I like his artwork.
From the NY Post comes this article: bq. The real Kerry ONE of the surest ways to get the phones ringing on any Massachusetts talk-radio show is to ask people to call in and tell their John Kerry stories. The phone lines are soon filled, and most of the stories have a common theme: our junior senator pulling rank on one of his constituents, breaking in line, demanding to pay less (or nothing) or ducking out before the bill arrives. bq. The tales often have one other common thread. Most end with Sen. Kerry inquiring of the lesser mortal: "Do you know who I am?" The article goes on with how Kerry is promoting himself as a populist but lives large, very very large... Worth reading if you are seriously thinking of him as a presidential candidate.
From UPI news comes the story of just who we have at Guantanamo and why they are there: bq. At least 160 of the 650 detainees acknowledged by the Pentagon being held at the United States military base at Guantanamo, Cuba -- almost a quarter of the total -- are from Saudi Arabia, a special UPI survey can reveal. bq. In UPI's groundbreaking and detailed breakdown of the nationalities of the detainees, some arrested far from the 2001 battlefield of Afghanistan, the other top nationalities being held are Yemen with 85, Pakistan with 82, Jordan and Egypt, each with 30. These are not Afghani citizens rallying to defend their homeland, these are fanatics who came from other countries as unlawful combatants (according to the Geneva Convention) to play whack-a-mole with the Great Satan's troops. And as unlawful combatants, they are being detained and questioned by not only the use but other countries as well (Guantanamo is one of four prison camps, it just happened to catch the media's attention)
Blogger Kim DuToit came up with a wonderful John Kerry quote regarding service in Vietnam and using same for political gain. Kim found this at the Opinion Journal. John Kerry says: bq. I am saddened by the fact that Vietnam has yet again been inserted into the campaign, and that it has been inserted in what I feel to be the worst possible way. ... We do not need to divide America over who served and how. I have personally always believed that many served in many different ways. ... But while those who served are owed special recognition, that recognition should not come at the expense of others; nor does it require that others be victimized or criticized or said to have settled for a lesser standard. ... We do not need more division. We certainly do not need something as complex and emotional as Vietnam reduced to simple campaign rhetoric. Kim comments on this with the following: bq. Of course, Kerry said these words in February 1992, and he was talking about the comments of Democrat candidate Bob Kerrey (a real war hero) directed at Democrat candidate Bill Clinton (a real draft dodger). For the record - despite Kerry's 'service' in Vietnam, he was also very much involved in anti-Vietnam protests. This website is run by the Vietnam Veterans Against John Kerry and it paints quite a different picture of J.F. Kerry and his 'service' to our nation.
From the International Herald Tribune comes this story: bq. Plan for referendum in Taiwan could lead to war, Beijing says China is putting pressure on the Bush administration to intervene decisively and prevent Taiwan from holding a referendum on cross-strait relations, calling the planned vote a ��dangerous provocation�� that could lead to war. bq. Beijing sent a mission to Washington this week to press for more concrete steps to rein in President Chen Shui-bian of Taiwan, who has repeatedly played down statements from President George W. Bush and the State Department expressing opposition to the referendum, a Chinese Foreign Ministry official said. bq. The effort reflects mounting concern in Beijing that the Taiwan problem is growing more acute even though Chen recently softened the language of his proposed referendum and offered to resume peace talks with China if he wins re-election March 20. Some officials and analysts here are alarmed that Chen has pushed ahead with the plebiscite despite U.S. opposition. China is seeking to grow its nation by taking over other 'disputed' countries - take a look at Tibet if you want an example. I had blogged about China's nationalistic military here. These people are certainly our trading partners and they have a lot to offer the world but they are not our friends and we do need to keep an eye on their plans for expansion...
From New Scientist magazine comes the report of an advance in stroke treatment. They go in and yank the clot out with a corkscrew. bq. "In our trial we had patients completely paralysed on one side of their body who returned to normal almost immediately after the clot was retrieved," says Sidney Starkman, of the Stroke Center at the University of California at Los Angeles. "How often do you get a chance to reverse a patient's stroke on the operating table?" bq. Starkman's team are evaluating the new device, which is made by California-based company Concentric Medical, and it has been tested on 114 patients so far. Blood flow was restored to the affected parts of the brain in 61 patients. Of these, 23 ended up with either no disability or with only relatively minor problems, such as difficulty writing. Very clever stuff - simple idea but effective...
I had blogged earlier about Chinook Medical Gear as an excellent source of first-aid supplies and equipment. Here are two more: The first one is Revival Animal Health - a veterinary supply store but they have cling-wrap elastic bandages for a lot cheaper than the high-tech (and high-$$$) ones sold to us mortals. Here is five yards, four inches wide for $1.69 - your choice of bright colors... The second one is Galls - an emergency services (Police / Fire / Rescue) supply store. Their medical section is more for the big stuff - splints, rescue, patient immobilization and transport.
Derek Lowe (website here) is a pharmaceutical chemist and from time to time, recounts stories of 'interesting' reactions he has experienced in the lab. Today's is a good one: bq. ...But I'm not surprised that it was an organoaluminum compound that took off on him, because I've had several of them do the same thing to me (without injury, fortunately.) bq. And the most nerve-wracking part of them was the time delay. Most reactive compounds are very forthright about their reactivity. They burst into flame on exposure to air (like tertiary-butyllithium, or for the hard-core pyromaniacs, the dialkyl zincs.) Or they give off great clouds of choking fumes (I can recommend neat titanium tetrachloride for those who want to experience this special effect - the one molar solution in dichloromethane is for dilettantes,) or hiss and splatter violently if they encounter water (chlorosulfonic acid is a winner in that category.) At any rate, you know very quickly, if you didn't already, what kind of substance you're dealing with. Drink alert - if you have anything in your mouth, swallow before reading the rest or you will be spending a few minutes wiping off your monitor and keyboard...
From Instapundit comes a link to Austin Bay's Strategy Page. In an almost prescient article published in January 2001, Bay writes: bq. What's Keeping Donald Rumsfeld Up Late At Night? During his Senate confirmation hearings, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was asked if he could name "one thing" that "kept him up at night" more than any other specific threat, terror, or trouble the Pentagon confronts. bq. Rumsfeld's answer was "intelligence." The article expands what Rumsfeld is saying here: bq. Faulty and inadequate intelligence is not merely a source of current SecDef sleep deprivation, it has loomed large in real world nightmares, from Pearl Harbor to Korea to Vietnam to the USS Cole disaster. bq. America's "intelligence vulnerability" is intricate, detailed, and complex. The penalty for intelligence failure, however, is often cruelly simple. In the defense business what you don't know will kill you. To draw an even finer bead, what you know but understand poorly, or what you know well but fail to use decisively, will also cost you in blood, money, and political capital. bq. Here's a quick sketch of Rumsfeld's worry. "Intelligence" isn't simply data, it's a dynamic process that includes: (1) creating and maintaining collection capabilities (with assets from human spies to spy satellites); (2) retrieving the info in a way that's timely and secure; (3) assessing source reliability; (4) assimilating often contradictory information into a meaningful "pattern," which means interpretation that is more art than science; and (5) convincing decision makers (whose minds may be less than open) to act on the assessments. Read the whole thing...
Patrick Stewart gave an interview for the BBC a few days ago that I read and tried to wrap my brain around how to best respond. He said essentially that we as a civilization were too arrogant to be going into space -- even uninhabited planets -- and that we would be better off spending our resources here on earth. This deserves a response and James Lileks steps up to the plate and drives it home: bq. Patrick Stewart jumped the shark. Snagged his foot caught in the beast�s mouth on he way over, too. bq. Actor Patrick Stewart - better known as Capt. Jean-Luc Picard of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" - says he thinks humans have no business traveling in space. bq. "I'm a bit of a wet blanket when it comes to the whole business of space travel," Stewart said in an interview posted on the BBC Web site. bq. The man whose mission was to "explore strange new worlds" as the captain of the starship Enterprise from 1987 to 1994 thinks space exploration is the height of "arrogance." bq. Great job, Pat! Nice of you to wad up all the goodwill you�ve accumulated and flush it down the toilet. Let�s review: you�re most prominently identified with which character? No, not Ahab. Perhaps Professor Xavier? After 2 more movies and 280 TV episodes, perhaps. No, you�re Jean-Luc Picard. That�s how millions know you; that�s the character that millions enjoyed, because you did a good job of portraying a civilized, intelligent explorer who projected the values of Western Civ into the inky void while confronting the baffling nuances of worlds we have yet to imagine. Many of us aging dweebs enjoyed ST: TNG because you invested the silly thing with gravity and brains, and our wives loved it as well: that shiny skull worked for them big time. In a few years NASA will have a crop of engineers whose desire to put robots on other planets was first sparked by the opening fly-by sequence of TNG. They thought you were on their side. Silly people? bq. "I would like to see us get this place right first before we have the arrogance to put significantly flawed civilizations out onto other planets," Stewart said. bq. Oh: right. Actor talking. �Get this place right.� What would that look like, exactly? And how would we know? If in 2079 there�s one monomaniacal Marxist sub-saharan leader starving his people for political gain, does this obligate other nations to shut down their rocketry programs until the guy dies and crop production returns to pre-tyrant levels? �Arrogance to put significantly flawed civilizations out onto other planets.� So it�s arrogant to put Americans on Mars, because our myriad �significant� flaws would somehow contaminate the gentle Martian polity that reigns today. The 63-year-old British actor says manned missions are too expensive. "It would take up so many resources, which I personally feel should be directed at our own planet," he said. bq. Making movies takes up many resources which could be directed at our own planet. For that matter, millions of pounds are spent in England annually for theater productions � I propose a ten-year moratorium on all stage shows, with the money distributed directly to our own planet. And after we have gotten things right on this planet we can get back to such frivolous luxuries as theater. What�s that, you say � theater employs many people? Theater inspires imaginations, adds to our store of knowledge, helps us define what it means to be human? bq. And exploring other words doesn�t, eh. Noted: the future of humanity shall consist not in getting this place right but watching angry Pinter screeds about that wretched meat we know as our own flawed species. And when we leave the theater we can look up and behold an infinite world we must never pollute. bq. And this from an Englishman! If he�d been around when first the Brits put out to sea he�d be a wet blanket on the whole idea of boats. bq. I realize that this now opens me to charges that I am a basement-dwelling pasty-skinned blobbo uberdork whose knowledge of female sexuality is grounded entirely in �Mudd�s Women,� but for the record: I live upstairs, it�s pale season where I live, and I�m about seven Atkins-assisted days away from a six-pack. But I am a dork. bq. And Patrick Stewart has now become T. J. Hooker. I know him not. This is something that I have been wondering about in the last three or so years - what causes entertainers to issue statements that reflect on subjects they may feel for but obviously not know anything about? When people like B. Streisand, C. Crow, J. Garafolo and the like weigh in on foreign policy, it reminds me of a dancing bear. Curious but no real value. I like their performance work but... BTW - for reference: "fisking" refers to taking apart a fallacious argument block by block - pointing out the error of the authors fact-finding and logic. It originated from the writings of Mideast 'journalist' Robert Fisk whose words-to-facts ratio begs for such a disassembly.
From the Belmont Club comes an excellent allegory between the current capture of S. Hussein and the case of the USA against Medellin drug lord Pablo Escobar in the mid-1980s. Wretchard writes: bq. The confidence with which President Bush has described the noose closing in around terrorists recalls not so much the hunt for Saddam Hussein, but for an earlier, foe, Pablo Escobar, the most powerful drug lord in world history. Escobar's story, for those who have forgotten, is rivetingly told in Mark Bowden's Killing Pablo. Escobar dominated the Medellin cartel in Columbia in the mid-1980s. Flush with billions of dollars from an industry he largely created, Escobar ruthlessly killed all in his path. Thousands of policemen, hundreds of judges -- anyone who dared oppose him -- were murdered and often tortured. And more: bq. In broad outline, this resembles the strategy used to pen up and finally capture Saddam Hussein. Unable to capture him directly, the US authorities in Iraq began to work their way up the Ba'athist chain, tearing down the mountain by another name. His hometown of Tikrit was cordoned off with razor wire. Saddam's relatives were interrogated and turned. His principal lieutenants were captured and killed until the day came when there was nothing but a spider-hole and beat-up taxicab left to Ruler of Babylon. One suspects that, if he still lives, the narrowing circles of Osama Bin Laden are being beset by the same inexorable forces. His infrastructure is being torn down, his confidantes vanishing in the night, his bankers visibly slouching towards the day when he is finally enmeshed in the "closing net of doom". It's really good - read it...
From the Australian News.com site comes this story from Khatmandhu: bq. A 75-year-old man in Nepal married a dog in a local custom to ensure good luck only to die three days later, a newspaper reported Wednesday. bq. With his son and other relatives by his side, Phulram Chaudhary tied the knot with a dog Saturday in Durgauli village in the southwestern Kailali district. bq. He was following a custom of his Tharu community which holds that an old man who regrows teeth must take a dog as a bride. bq. "He believed that this would help him avoid great misfortune later in life. However, he died a few days afterward," the state-run daily Gorkhapatra said. Darn...
From KOMO-TV comes the story of a 17-year-old girl, days away from getting her driver's license. She and her 15-year-old boyfriend took her family's new Ford Explorer and decided to go for a spin around West Seattle. bq. Unfortunately, police say her premature celebration involved speeding down 14th Avenue Southwest at speeds witnesses estimated at 80 mph when she crashed into a car at the uncontrolled intersection of SW Barton Street and 14th Avenue Southwest. Even worse? That car was a Seattle Police cruiser. And she is grounded for how long? Good news is that nobody was hurt but still...
Interesting thoughts on outsourcing programming jobs from Marginal Revolution: bq. Computer programmers are a highly paid lot in the United States. Both the U.S. and India would be better off if lower-wage Indians did more of the programming and the U.S. did more innovating. Read here about tech executive Marc Andreesen, who is willing to come out and offer three cheers for outsourcing. From the USA Today article linked in the quote from Tyler's website: bq. That belief is based on a widely accepted theory � the theory of comparative advantage � that goes back to David Ricardo, a brilliant 19th-century economist who seems not to be related to Ricky. bq. Though, as Ricky Ricardo might say, let me do some 'splainin. bq. Let's say the USA is really good at two different things, software programming and creating innovative technology. And let's say India is also good at both. Because Indians don't get paid nearly as much as Americans, India can do each job at a far lower cost compared with the USA. Read the rest - it's quite good... UPDATE: Mr. Instapundit himself, Glen Reynolds links to a National Center for Policy Analysis article which says the same thing...
From the Bizarre Science website comes a link to a wonderful essay by Greenpeace co-founder Patrick Moore. I had blogged about Moore a couple months ago here and posted a link to his current project Greenspirit. Patrick left Greenpeace (and in fact the entire 'environmentalist' culture) when he became frustrated with their lack of scientific reasoning. Here are some excerpts from the essay: bq. I was raised in the tiny fishing and logging village of Winter Harbour on the northwest tip of Vancouver Island, where salmon spawned in the streams of the adjoining Pacific rainforest. In school I discovered ecology, and realized that through science I could gain insight into the natural beauties I had known as a child. In the late 1960s I was transformed into a radical environmental activist. A rag-tag group of activists and I sailed a leaky old halibut boat across the North Pacific to block the last hydrogen bomb tests under President Nixon. In the process I co-founded Greenpeace. Even excerpted, the essay is fairly long so the rest of it is available when you click the 'Continue reading" link below:
From, Kevin Kelley's website comes a selection of ultra-light trail equipment: bq. Patagonia Spoonbill Cap Maxit Beanie "Survival" Ground Sheet Kelty Cloud Pack Petzl Zipka Headlamp Z-Rest Pad Royal Robbins Expedition Shirt Pilot's Finger Light All good stuff - the article has photos and a brief write-up on the items with links on where to buy.
From Little Green Footballs comes this link to a Yahoo/AP story: bq. The founder of Pakistan's nuclear weapons program claimed responsibility Wednesday for leaks of nuclear secrets he said were made behind the government's back, begging forgiveness in an extraordinary televised address to the nation. bq. Abdul Qadeer Khan's solemn speech followed days of negotiations with the government leading to an understanding that an apology would help him avoid a messy public prosecution, intelligence officials told The Associated Press. bq. The admission came amid widespread suspicion that the government, despite years of denials, played a role in Khan's sending nuclear technology to Libya and two countries that President Bush has called part of an "axis of evil" � Iran and North Korea. bq. "I have chosen to appear before you to offer my deepest regrets and unqualified apologies to a traumatized nation," Khan said, hours after meeting with President Gen. Pervez Musharraf to submit a plea for clemency. "I take full responsibility for my actions and seek your pardon." And the dominoes fall faster and faster still... The government (Gen. Pervez Musharraf) wants distance from the scandal and getting the key person to take ownership on television is an excellent way to do this. Now, Musharraf can open diplomatic channels with the Coalition and begin bringing Pakistan into modern times. The key beneficiary of this will be the Pakistani people - not now, not in five years but ten years down the road when their economy is flourishing.
Blogger Michael J. Totten drives from Portland, OR to Las Vegas on back roads in January and lives to tell about it: bq. If you�re going to get your jeep stuck in a ditch on the side of the road, don�t do it on the top of Blizzard Pass (elevation 7,000 feet) on the Oregon/Nevada border as a winter storm rolls in. Traffic, such as it is, consists of a car every three hours. The nearest sign of human civilization is a telephone pole fifty miles down the road. Punching 911 into the cell phone is as likely to get you rescued as jumping up and down and waving your arms at passenger jets. If a truck driver comes along in a semi and can pull your sorry vehicle out of the ditch with a tow chain, consider yourself one lucky bastard. Heh...
From CNN/World - these are the same people who tried escaping Castro's workers paradise last July in a 1951 Chevy pickup - this time it's a tailfinned car from the 50's. bq. Marciel Basanta Lopez and Luis Gras Rodriguez, who were brought back to Cuba after they failed to reach Florida in a converted 1951 Chevy pickup in July, were allegedly at the helm of the newest vehicle-boat conversion. bq. The U.S. Coast Guard would not confirm the status of the tailfinned 1950s car. bq. Relatives told Basanta's cousin, Kiriat Lopez, who lives in Florida, that they knew the men were planning a second escape attempt. bq. "My cousin isn't crazy. He wants to be free," Lopez said. "That's how crazy he is." There is no additional information about how many people were in the vehicle and what their immigration status is - last time with the truck, they had nine men, two women and a small child. Castro needs to go. Now please...
Arrgghhhh... From the BBC comes this report on new techniques to slip spam past spam blocking software: bq. Good news for spammers, the smart filtering software used to catch spam can be beaten. bq. With a little ingenuity it is possible to create messages that get past anti-spam filters every single time. bq. The discovery has been made by anti-spam researcher John Graham-Cumming who studies the novel ways spammers try to defeat the technologies used to stop junk mail. bq. The bad news for spammers is that this flaw in filtering systems is not easy to exploit and can be combated. I have seen a huge growth of this at work and at home - some of the choices for random words are downright poetical - an exquisite corpse made of spam subject lines has potential.
Interesting report in the NY Post regarding Al Sharpton's presidential campaign and some fund raising issues: bq. Call it the politics of personal enrichment. No wonder the Rev. Al Sharpton - finishing way back in the pack yesterday in South Carolina, just weeks after being handed a hefty $5,500 fine from the Federal Election Commission - is so committed to his presidential campaign. bq. That's where the money is. bq. Sharpton's records show that his campaign's biggest billing client may well be - Al Sharpton. The reverend was paid $31,243 for "fund-raising reimbursement" and other expenses. bq. Which is interesting, considering that the campaign hasn't even raised that much money. Plus, Sharpton is owed another $91,000 in "reimbursement expenses" and $19,799 in "reimbursement services" for credit-card purchases. bq. Nice work if you can get it. bq. It's quite clear what's going on here: Sharpton is using the campaign to funnel money to himself. The irony is that the campaign is broke - with barely $7,000 in the bank - but the Rev will likely see a payday. He's hoping to hang around long enough to qualify for federal matching funds so that tax dollars will flow to his campaign - and on into his pockets. bq. None of this should surprise, coming as it does after reports of Sharpton's use of the campaign to treat himself to high-priced hotels and other travel perks around the country. bq. Al Sharpton is running another scam. If the FEC lets him get away with it - well, shame on the FEC. Sigh... This guy is notorious for these things and he still gets away with it. They are never bad enough to warrant a large outcry so he is able to slide under the public radar and continue being a repeat offender.
From the BBC News bq. Mice produce sperm from monkeys Mice have been used to produce viable monkey sperm using tissue transplanted from the testes of macaques. bq. The US scientists involved say their work might one day help to conserve animals that are facing extinction. bq. It might also be possible to grow human sperm in mice, although the team agree this would be a controversial move. bq. The researchers, from the universities of Pennsylvania and California, report their studies in the latest issue of the journal Biology of Reproduction. This will be a hot-potato topic... This is not genetic manipulation (such as the transgenic goats who produce spider-silk proteins in their milk), this is simply the transplant of some tissue into a host animal. There are some wonderful ramifications for fertility treatments though.
Web site documenting Australian Urban Exploration - Sleepy City. This is the act of entering abandoned buildings, exploring and documenting the ruins. Fascinating stuff. One thing I regret is that Seattle is such a new city and there aren't opportunities like this here.
Two articles on Ricin: First from Derek Lowe who is a pharmaceutical chemist: bq. Now that the suspected ricin in the Senate (and White House?) has been confirmed, I thought I'd repost a version of something I wrote about a year ago on my previous site, Lagniappe. (This was written after British authorities had rounded up several suspects in London who had some ricin of their own.) So what is the stuff, and what kind of threat is it? bq. Ricin's a protein from castor beans - yep, the same ones used to prepare castor oil. The parent plant is sometimes used as a warm-weather ornamental, and used to be an industrial crop. The leaves aren't a problem, but the beans contain up to 5% ricin, which is a rather high yield for a natural product. It's quite toxic, although there are certainly worse things out there. Botulinum toxin, for example, is a thousand times more potent, but you can't grow anerobic bacteria very well in your back yard (and they're not very ornamental, either.) bq. The purification methods for ricin are in the open literature, and aren't particularly challenging. I'm not going to go over them, though, in the interest of not making its isolation any easier than it already is - it's already probably one of the easiest toxins to isolate. For that matter, you can order various forms of it from biochemical supply houses. It's quite cheap, by the standards of protein natural products (which are usually priced rather steeply.) Second is a Chronology of Incidents from the Monterey Institute of International Studies in Monterey, CA. (side note: Monterey seems to be home to a number of very quiet but very interesting groups. The navy trains people out there, some very high-level brains visit there frequently. I would love to take six months off and just wander the halls of the buildings in that town...) Back to topic: bq. The discovery of ricin powder in the U.S. Senate office of Majority Leader Bill Frist may not turn out to be very harmful, but will certainly prove disquieting. The use of ricin, a deadly toxin derived from the castor bean, marks the second case in three years where someone has sent mail containing a toxic substance to the offices of the country's most senior lawmakers. The previous case in 2001 involved spores of Bacillus anthracis and resulted in five deaths and numerous infections. The current ricin incident looks unlikely to cause any casualties, but could be the result of a copycat seeking to emulate the mayhem the "anthrax letters" caused. Although this is the first time ricin has been blatantly used against such a high-profile target, precedents for the use of this biowarfare agent exist. Below is a chronology of incidents derived from the Monterey Institute's WMD Terrorism Database that lists previous incidents that involved the possession, threat, and/or use of ricin. All incidents are based solely on data derived from open sources. bq. October 2003: a metallic container was discovered at a Greenville, South Carolina postal facility with ricin in it. bq. On 3 March 2003, FBI agents arrested Bertier Ray Riddle in Omaha, Arkansas on suspicion that he sent an envelope to the FBI field office in Little Rock that claimed to contain ricin. bq. On 5 January 2003, six Algerians were arrested at their apartment in London, United Kingdom on charges of "being in the possession of objects which give rise to reasonable suspicions of the intention of carrying out preparing, or instigating an act of terrorism" and for trying to "develop or produce a chemical weapon." Following the arrests, authorities discovered traces of ricin in the apartment located in Wood Green, located in northern London.They also discovered castor oil beans and equipment for crushing the beans. bq. August 2002: Reports have emerged that Ansar al-Islam, a Sunni militant group, has been involved in testing poisons and chemicals including ricin. bq. On 19 June 2002, Kenneth R. Olsen, 48, was arrested for possession of the biological agent ricin in his Spokane Valley office cubicle. And it goes on for another couple pages. As Derek says, it's not that hard to make...
From the East Central Indiana Star Press comes the story of two people who were arrested for trespassing when they pulled off the road into someones driveway, stopping before the gate and one of them got out of the car to look at a barn... But wait - there's more: bq. A jury Friday night convicted Ball State University history professor Abel Alves and his wife Carol Blakney of trespassing on Seldom Rest hog farm in October of 2002. bq. "We're here because the defendants ignored that [no-trespassing] sign," Deputy Prosecutor Judi Calhoun told the jury. And the real reason: bq. Several months earlier, Blakney had filed a complaint against the Whiteheads with the Indiana Department of Environmental Management. bq. As a result of the complaint, IDEM accused the Whiteheads of housing the pigs in an unpermitted barn and of allowing manure to be released from the barn. The Whiteheads took care of the alleged violations. Blakney stopped to show the barn to Alves because he had not seen it. Using a lawsuit to settle a grudge - how American is that? Heh...
Installing Linux on a machine at work - I had been using Mandrake since I like its look and feel. Novell recently purchased SuSE and since our backbone is Novell, I decided to install SuSE 9.0 on this machine (DELL PowerEdge 2500) So far so good - the user interface allows for deep tweaking in the setup parameters without getting in 'yo face about all of the details, you can zoom into a section, tweak and zoom back out to the overall 'friendly' defaults. The hardware detection seems to work well - picked up the RAID card and USB drives. So far, so good... I'll update this over the next day or so.
This is actually legit (from the Houston Chronicle) - William Friedkin shot the opening sequence of his 1973 horror classic in the town of Hatra, Iraq. And now: bq. "And then the Army hatched this idea," Friedkin continued, "to turn the whole area into a tourist attraction and call it 'The Exorcist Experience.'" bq. Friedkin was sent a copy of the story about Guran's experience in the Gulf Times, a newspaper published in Qatar. In the article, Guran says, "Once it's up and running again as a visitors' spot, this place will be a real money pot. You should see it at night -- we've put in floodlights and it looks really beautiful." bq. Breathing new fire into the old clich�s that war is hell and love of money is the root of all evil, American soldiers have found a way to wrest Western capitalism out of the Iraqi sands where part of Hollywood's most popular devil movie was filmed. bq. Granted $5,000 by the Army's Commanders Emergency Response Program, the soldiers hired unemployed Mosul University students as guides, created a parking lot, opened a police station and revamped a nearby hotel. The theme park, which is officially backed by the Pentagon, will be turned over to the Iraqis once it is operating. Admission will be $2 or $5 with a kabob lunch. bq. When Friedkin learned that the soldiers would welcome private contributions to create the park, he got in touch with the commander of the 101st Airborne and offered to kick in. He and Exorcist novelist and screenwriter William Peter Blatty, a Lebanese-American , hope to visit the site to help get it going. And more: bq. "I hope they'll arrange it," Friedkin said. "I would love nothing better than to return to Iraq. I've traveled all over the world and I have never felt closer to a people than I did to the Iraqis. They're regular guys, fathers who want good jobs so they can bring home food for their wives and kids, and who like to sit around and shoot the breeze and laugh." bq. In 1972, Friedkin spent three months shooting those spooky opening images of The Exorcist, sleeping in a tent near the train station in Mosul, where the Orient Express could be heard rumbling through the night. By day, he shot at a German archaeological site in the desert outside Hatra where there was a statue of Bazuzu, the Mesopotamian demon that possesses the young girl in the movie. bq. "I wanted vultures circling over Bazuzu," the director recalled. "So every morning I sent out locals to toss raw meat around the statue to attract the vultures. But little did I know that meat was so scarce in Iraq that the vultures had long ago switched to an all-carb pita bread diet. bq. "I never got the vultures in the shot. But I did get the attention of a local cult of devil worshipers called the Ysidi, who demanded to know why this crazy American was having raw meat tossed around Bazuzu every day as a sacrifice." bq. Friedkin also recalled that while he was there, before Saddam Hussein seized power, there was no American Embassy in Iraq, and that his passport was essentially useless as protection. bq. "We were guests of the Baath Party, then run by a guy who looked like Groucho Marx," Friedkin said, "and every morning I trained my Iraqi guides to salute his picture by chanting, 'Hooray for Captain Spalding!'" -- a reference to Groucho's character in Animal Crackers. bq. "I spent most of the time between shots teaching them American curse words," Friedkin continued. "Then they'd get in their taxis and smile at cops in Hatra and curse them out in English. The cops, who didn't understand a word of English, would smile and wave back. I had a blast." bq. Using "The Exorcist Experience" to attract people to the area would please Friedkin. bq. "Historically, it's the most astounding place I've ever seen," he said. "This site is an archaeological dreamscape of pre-Christian, Sumerian, Assyrian and Babylonian treasure in a country that is the cradle of civilization -- where Hammurabi created the first laws, where King Nebuchadnezzar's palace was unearthed. bq. "We lose track of all that in this war," Friedkin said. "I'd love for people to eventually flock to it for all those reasons. If `The Exorcist Experience' helps bring them there, I'd be flattered." This would be so cool. Afghanistan used to be a major stopping point for backpackers and world travelers before all the fundamentalist cult bullshit. It will be nice to see these places opening up again. The people are fantastic, it is the corrupt dictators who make these bad places.
Take the standard DVD platform but use near Ultra-Violet lasers instead of the original near Infra-Red and you gain a whopping increase in capacity. The shorter wavelength allows the bits to be packed closer together so instead of 4.7GB you are looking at 23.3GB. These initial units are aimed at business and enterprise users since they cost about $3.5K but I remember not too long ago when a standard 1X DVD burner was over $10K so this should drop. Hat tip to the excellent Gizmodo website for their link to this article.
The Guardian has a wonderful editorial on British Journalism and the BBC in particular and its reaction to the Hutton report. bq. The threat to the media is real. It comes from within Prejudice, petulance and cynicism have fueled the reaction to Hutton bq. Having read the Hutton report and most of what has been written about it, I have reached the following, strictly non-judicial, conclusions: first, that the episode illuminates a wider crisis in British journalism than the turmoil at the BBC; second, that too many journalists are in denial about this wider crisis; third, that journalists need to be at the forefront of trying to rectify it; and, fourth, that this will almost certainly not happen. bq. The reporting of Lord Hutton's conclusions and of the reactions to them has been meticulous. The same cannot be said of large tracts of the commentary and editorializing - nor of much of the equally kneejerk newspaper correspondence. Much of this comment has been sullied by scorn, prejudice and petulance. The more you read it, the more you get the sense that the modern journalist is prone to behaving like a child throwing its rattle out of the pram because it has not got what it wanted. Read the whole thing - the author (Martin Kettle) skewers everyone with precision...
Interesting comment from The Junkyard Blog regarding the Ricin scare: bq. It was in an envelope found at a post office in Connecticut, addressed to Sen. Majority Leader Bill Frist. Will he blame the Democrats? bq. No. And he shouldn't. bq. But when then Sen. Majority Leader Tom Daschle's office received an envelope containing anthrax back in 2001, Daschle and his wife were quick to insinuate that Republicans or right-wingers were behind it. Many, many on the left wanted desperately to pin the attacks on right-wingers, despite the absence of even a single shred of evidence justifying such a charge (here's a Google search if you don't believe me). NPR went as far as to name the Traditional Values Coalition on the air as a suspected group. What NPR lacked was judgment, fairness and evidence. bq. As for the Daschles, well, like much of the left they just lack any sense that the threats we face are external. They prefer to bash the supposed enemy within instead of confronting the very real enemy without. Keep in mind Mrs. Daschle offered this assessment of the threat to her husband not long after 9-11 (which obviously wasn't perpetrated by Republicans): And more: bq. And to blame the rising partisanship of the time on Republicans--when groups like Democrats.com were hawking "Bush knew" conspiracy books and the like--is especially rich. The fact was and remains that the Dems hugged the flag only as long as they had to after 9-11, then went right back to airing conspiracy theories and castigating Republicans as hateful and and Bush as Hitler and so forth as soon as they believed they could get away with it. Spot on. The Google search turns up 3,400 hits so this is not a minor news issue, this was reported on in detail.
Interesting news from The Telegraph (with hat tips to Instapundit and EuroSoc): bq. Germany seeks closer ties with Britain Chancellor was a 'prisoner' of French president in 'catastrophic' opposition to war to topple Saddam. bq. Germany is seeking to distance itself from France's tight embrace and realign itself more closely to Britain and America, senior German officials signaled yesterday. bq. They said the row with Washington over Iraq had been "catastrophic" for Berlin and Chancellor Gerhard Schr�der had become "a prisoner" of President Jacques Chirac's campaign to oppose the war to topple Saddam Hussein last year. And more: bq. Another official explained: "We have to be careful that we are not identified with every word that the French president utters. We must have our own identity and be a little more clever." And now that M Chirac is in such deep kimchee from corporate and government scandals, the French Sparrow missiles plus the Saddam Oil corruption, distance is a good thing... bq. Britain will be wary of German overtures unless it sees concrete evidence of Mr Schr�der's independence from M Chirac rather than mere talk by German officials. Talk the talk - now let's walk the walk. bq. Germany has long regarded a strong alliance with America as vital. But during the diplomatic battles over the war in Iraq Mr Schr�der firmly allied himself to M Chirac in confronting the might of the United States and blocking United Nations authorization for military action. bq. Now German officials say they are also ready to offer limited help in Iraq. "We have an interest in success in Iraq," insisted one official. "Unless there is stability and some kind of democracy there could be a negative domino effect across the region to the detriment of everybody's interests in the West." They have seen the positive domino effect (Libya, Pakistan, etc...) and they want to avoid any connection with those still involved in terrorism. Good news!
From Slashdot. When you want to make a telescope with a large diameter primary mirror, there are some mechanical and optical issues that make it very advisable to make the telescope have a longish focal length (f6 to f8). For a scope with an 18" diameter primary, this could mean a tube length of ten feet. For a Newtonian design, the eyepiece is out at the end of the tube so a 10' tube length will make observation tricky - mechanical stability of the tube also means that the scope will be heavy. What Michael has done is instead of having the Newtonian eyepiece at the end of the tube with the small mirror at 45 degrees, he has used a larger mirror angled at 15 degrees and folded the eyepiece tube at an angle to the main tube. The pictures here explain it better than words. Cool idea!
Just breaking on CNN: bq. Preliminary tests on a white, powdery substance found in the mailroom of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist indicate the presence of the deadly substance ricin, a Homeland Security official said Monday. bq. A U.S. Capitol police spokeswoman said the department is investigating the matter but would not comment on the substance found, saying only that preliminary tests were positive for a "hazardous substance." bq. The substance is to be tested further at the Army research laboratory at Fort Detrick, Maryland. bq. The Homeland Security official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said those results could be back as soon as Tuesday. bq. Authorities said people should stay clear of the south side of the fourth floor of the Dirksen Senate Office building. bq. The substance was found about 3 p.m., and authorities were contacted. There is no proof as yet - the analysis will need to be done to confirm Ricin but still, this is not good news... Tomorrow will bring more details.
Some news sources require a free registration. The NY Times is an excellent example, the LA Times is another (although LAT would hardly be in the same category as the NY Times) This message is to let you know that the LAT's competition the LA Examiner works fine for both websites as username and password for logging in. Username: laexaminer Password: laexaminer The LA Examiner is a joint venture between Ken Layne and Matt Welch, two long-time bloggers.
Pretty bad weather over in England and Wales - the city of York has standing water in its streets. The BBC has a writeup on this. Kind of early in the season to be starting. bq. The River Ouse has burst its banks flooding part of the centre of York as forecasters warn of more heavy rain. Wales, the Midlands and southern England are set to get the worst of the rain on Monday night and Tuesday. bq. The Environment Agency has 49 flood warnings in place in England and Wales after heavy rain and the weekend thaw swelled rivers. In the Midlands alone, there are 27 flood warnings in place. North east and south west England are also at risk. The heavy rainfall which began on Monday is expected to last throughout the week, although temperatures will be mild.
I had blogged about this before here and it looks like there are additional stories coming out... From Instapundit comes two links: As the Snowball Turns - an entry at Maroon Blog outlines how: bq. "Iran's main reformist party will boycott the country's parliamentary elections this month, the head of the party, Mohammad Reza Khatami, said today. bq. The statement by Mr. Khatami to reporters, which was carried by the Islamic Republic News Agency, was the latest development in what appears to be a deepening political crisis in Iran after more than one-third of the members of Parliament resigned on Sunday over a sweeping exclusion of candidates by religious conservatives." They offer this observation: bq. The second point reminds me of early Soviet Russia, when each side in a political squabble would question the political orthodoxy of the other, and declare that they had strayed from the tenants of Lenin. By declaring such views publicly, I really don't see how each side can be reconciled without many figures losing their face to such an extent that they will be pushed out of politics. The second link on Glenn's blog points to this Christian Science Monitor article: bq. A quarter century after launching its 1979 Islamic revolution, Iran is facing a political showdown between elected and unelected lawmakers that is set to redefine the parameters of democratic rule in Iran. bq. Already, a string of unprecedented acts has made the internal crisis one of the most severe in Iran's modern history. Analysts say that only intervention by Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, can now end the deadlock between reformist and conservative camps. bq. The main reform party announced Monday that it would boycott upcoming parliamentary elections, but stopped short of asking Iranians not to vote. bq. "We have no hope that a fair, free, and legitimate election can be held on February 20. So in the current circumstances we cannot participate," said Mohammad Reza Khatami, head of the Islamic Iran Participation Front, Monday. If the vote were held then, he added, "It would not be a reformist government anymore." And a telling quote: bq. MP Mohsen Mirdamadi, who was beaten by hard-line vigilantes during a speech last December, announced the party's decision. "They want to cover the ugly body of dictatorship with the beautiful dress of democracy," Mr. Mirdamadi said in a speech broadcast live on Iran Radio. "We had no choice but to resign." Dominoes anyone... Once people have a taste of all of the freedoms, they will want more. Let's have the strength to see that they get it.
From Phil Carter's Intel Dump: bq. Slate has posted a series of 1971 Doonesbury cartoons by Garry Trudeau which take potshots at then-Vietnam Vet Against the War (now presidential candidate) John Kerry. I had also blogged about a group of Vietnam veterans who are strongly against Kerry and say (and show) why on their website. He is more than willing to talk about his Vietnam experience since we are on a war footing. He is curiously mum about his work with the Vietnam Vets against the war, his meetings with Hanoi Jane, his writings. Let's look at the record here.
The biggest story we didn't read... From Steven DenBeste's website comes a story about this last weekend: bq. What didn't happen Yesterday was Super-Sunday, the day the Superbowl was played. In some southern city somewhere, the top two teams in American football met and played the last game of the regular season, and one of them won it and became the champion. (For at least some people. which teams they were and which one was the victor was really important.) bq. And the biggest story of the day? That it was one of the few Superbowls where the score was close? That at half-time a pop-singer's breast got exposed, whether accidentally or on purpose? bq. Nope. The biggest story was the one we didn't read: "Terrorist attack causes 30,000 deaths". It is the deafening silence, the dog not barking in the night. For the third straight year since 9/11, a crowd the size of a small city concentrated itself in a stadium and sat for several hours to watch the most heavily televised live event of the year. And then that crowd dispersed and went home.
Wonderful news from the NY Times (free reg. required): bq. At the start of the month, Pakistan massed several thousand troops in and around the town of Wana, near the country's mountainous border with Afghanistan. Using a harsh century-old British method, officials handed local tribal elders a list and issued an ultimatum. bq. If 72 men wanted for sheltering Al Qaeda were not produced, they said, the Pakistani Army would punish the tribe as a group, demolishing houses, withdrawing funds and even detaining tribe members. bq. Several days later, several thousand tribal elders held a jirga, or council, and agreed to raise a force of their own to find the wanted men. In the last two weeks, the tribes have handed over 42 of them. Tribal members, meanwhile, have bulldozed and dynamited the homes of eight men who refused to surrender. And more: bq. "There is this age-old system of collective responsibility," said Lt. Gen. Syed Iftikhar Hussain Shah, the governor of Pakistan's North-West Frontier Province and a key supporter of the new approach. "Tribes are supposed to help the government." And more: bq. The governor said he hoped new aid flowing into the area would reduce sympathies for Taliban and Al Qaeda. He said the government had increased the development budget for the tribal areas by 400 percent, to $67 million. If significant increases are made for several years, he said, the tribal areas will finally receive government financing on a par with other parts of the country. bq. There is also international help. Norway is building 350 schools, he said. Japan and the United States are spending $2 million on refurbishing existing primary schools. And the United States is paying $10 million for new roads. This is one of the key weapons in the war on terror - infrastructure. Get clean water, schools, roads, communications into these areas and you will find the people opening up to new ideas and rejecting the terror cults for what they are.
Click on over to Nationmaster and play around for a while - don't plan on getting anything else done today... This site is hard to describe so I will let it's creator, Luke Metcalfe, say why he wrote it: bq. The idea for NationMaster arose as I was surfing around the CIA World Factbook. It's a great read but I felt the individual figures (like number of TV's, or kilometres of coastline) didn't mean much on their own. They'd be more illuminating if they were placed alongside other countries and shown relative to population. bq. So I decided to put together a website that allowed users to generate graphs based on numerical data extracted from the Factbook. The next (rather obvious) realisation was that there's no reason I couldn't take in data from other sources. Why shouldn't the net have a central location that allows you to compare countries on any statistic you like? bq. But why did I do it? To promote education and understanding about the world. To make it easy to engage with the indicators that shape global commerce, health, politics and ecology. To make the facts easily accessible and meaningful. To bring the works of academics, public agencies and private researchers to a wider audience. Here are some sample searches: Most murders per captia (here) Population growth rates (here) Number of Televisions per capita (here) Fascinating stuff...
Great overview on the current thinking in self-sustaining fusion reactors from PhysicsWeb: bq. For the last 200 years the bulk of our energy has come from the burning of fossil fuels. However, this finite reserve is running out, and the only way to meet the world's increasing energy demands is to develop alternative energy sources, such as renewable energy, nuclear fission and nuclear fusion. Fusion is the least developed of these but it has the potential to provide a virtually inexhaustible source of energy. It is also safer than fission, and would produce no "greenhouse gasses" such as carbon dioxide. A fusion reactor burning just 1 kg of fuel per day could produce a sustained power output of 1 GW. This is where the brass ring is people - controlled sustained fusion is the holy grail and everything else is just a stopgap technology. There are no commercial business at this time (anyone who says they are is probably a huckster) but the next twenty years will be very interesting. Cold fusion got people's hopes up for a bit but it was proved to be a lab error. There is a Farnsworth fusor (invented by Philo Farnsworth who also invented television) but its energy production is way less than unity (more in than out) Interesting stuff!
Fascinating column by William Safire in today's NY Times (free registration required) on the largest non-nuclear explosion and its causes - a computer Trojan Horse: Safire is talking about a KGB agent who turned and gave a dossier to the USA: bq. It contained documents from the K.G.B. Technology Directorate showing how the Soviets were systematically stealing � or secretly buying through third parties � the radar, machine tools and semiconductors to keep the Russians nearly competitive with U.S. military-industrial strength through the 70's. In effect, the U.S. was in an arms race with itself. When they saw the Soviet shopping list (and the Soviet agents doing the buying), the initial reaction was to deport them. The second reaction was: bq. "Why not help the Soviets with their shopping? Now that we know what they want, we can help them get it." The catch: computer chips would be designed to pass Soviet quality tests and then to fail in operation. bq. In our complex disinformation scheme, deliberately flawed designs for stealth technology and space defense sent Russian scientists down paths that wasted time and money. bq. The technology topping the Soviets' wish list was for computer control systems to automate the operation of the new trans-Siberian gas pipeline. When we turned down their overt purchase order, the K.G.B. sent a covert agent into a Canadian company to steal the software; tipped off by Farewell, we added what geeks call a "Trojan Horse" to the pirated product. bq. "The pipeline software that was to run the pumps, turbines and valves was programmed to go haywire," writes Reed, "to reset pump speeds and valve settings to produce pressures far beyond those acceptable to the pipeline joints and welds. The result was the most monumental non-nuclear explosion and fire ever seen from space." bq. Our Norad monitors feared a nuclear detonation, but satellites that would have picked up its electromagnetic pulse were silent. That mystified many in the White House, but "Gus Weiss came down the hall to tell his fellow NSC staffers not to worry. It took him another twenty years to tell me why." Heh...
Two excellent editorials on life in North Korea. Axis of Evil seems to fit... First, from the BBC News comes the story of Kwon Hyok who defected from N. Korea in 1999. In 1993, he was Head of Security at prison camp 22 in Haengyong, an isolated area near the border with Russia. In his words: bq. "In North Korea, " Kwon Hyok explains, "political prisoners are those who say or do something against the dead President Kim Il-sung, or his son Kim Jong-il. But it also includes a wide network of next of kin. It's designed to root out the seeds of those classed as disloyal to North Korea." bq. In prison, says Kwon Hyok, "there is a watchdog system in place between members of five different families. So if I were caught trying to escape, then my family and the four neighbouring families are shot to death out of collective responsibility." bq. Torture, he says, was routine. "Prisoners were like pigs or dogs. You could kill them without caring whether they lived or died.." bq. "For the first three years" he explained " you enjoy torturing people but then it wears off and someone else takes over. But most of the time you do it because you enjoy it." This article goes on to tell of more horrible stories and cites independent verification of Kwon Hyok's stories. The other editorial comes from The Guardian Observer and tells of the gas chambers at Camp-22: bq. 'I witnessed a whole family being tested on suffocating gas and dying in the gas chamber,' he said. 'The parents, son and and a daughter. The parents were vomiting and dying, but till the very last moment they tried to save kids by doing mouth-to-mouth breathing.' Next up for a regime change...
I have always been a bit disappointed in RealAudio - OK idea out of the gate but a lousy implementation and the company never really found focus. Now, one of their public users is dumping them after some issues from their users. I refer you to Click and Clack (the Tappet bros.) Car Talk website: bq. Car Talk will now be available via the Windows Media Player, rather than RealMedia. That's right, we're unceremoniously dumping RealMedia. bq. Why? Because, for a long time, we've had tons of complaints about RealNetworks. And the one that ticks us off the most is the perceived trickery they use to sell their premium products. This is just our opinion, mind you, but it's shared by enough of our listeners, that we finally decided to take action. bq. Here's the problem. In order to hear our audio, you have to go to Real.com and download their "free" RealPlayer. But when you get to the web site, the free player is harder to find than Osama Bin Laden at night. And the site seems to do everything it possibly can to get you to "buy" a player instead. You have to work very hard to get the free player. And we think that stinks. And get this. It stinks so much that it even makes Microsoft look good by comparison. That's something, huh? bq. We've heard from many of our fans that have been duped, and who have accidentally shelled out their hard-earned dineros. And we won't even get into the ways that the RealPlayer tries to take over your computer once you install it. So, after surveying the alternatives, we're switching to Windows Media Player (which works on Macs, too). FREE should be FREE - not misdirected, not hidden, FREE. Adobe does it right and sells a ton of their software. Real doesn't get it. They are flailing at the marketplace and their 5-year performance shows it.
A wonderful set of Rules of Order from Sargeant Strykers website: bq. The family is not a participatory democracy, but a benevolent dictatorship, and the parents are the dictators. The childs' input will be listened to courteously, and best interests considered carefully, but at the end of the day, the parents will have the final word. bq. You will be expected to perform household chores such as laundry, cleaning the bathroom, washing dishes, raking the leaves, and even cooking the occasional meal. All these things and other duties yet undefined are part of necessary family upkeep. Everyone is expected to lend a hand, as his or her abilities permit, and to do so cheerfully and without having to be nagged. bq. You will maintain an acceptable grade point average in school. Digging ditches for a living is neither remunerative nor amusing as a life-long occupation�. Which is what happens to D students. When you graduate high school, you may continue living at home if you are going to college. Otherwise, the adult world is calling. bq. There is nothing wrong with having to share a bedroom with a sibling of the same sex, or a bathroom with the rest of the family. We are not rich, so get over it and adjust. Your little sister/brother does NOT have cooties. bq. Make your bed every morning, and put on fresh socks and underwear. bq. You may eat as little or as much of what is served for meals� but there will be nothing until the next meal, which may in four to ten hours, and no snacking allowed. Your choice. bq. Whole wheat bread is better than white. bq. When you are sick to your stomach, 7-Up is best. It dosen�t stain, and if you throw it up, it tastes OK coming up. bq. Eat dinner with the family every night that you can. TV can wait. And there's more Heh...
We bought a tractor!!! Whooo hooo!!! Got a Kubota and I would point you to their website but it is very heavy on animation and even on our internet connection takes a looong long time to load. Bad user design Kubota!!! Fie!!! It's about 40 Horsepower, Diesel and will be coming with a group of implements that will do about everything we need from disking the land (modern kind of plow), grading it afterwords, a bucket-loader, forklift, post-hole auger and bits, mower, cold weather package, 4-wheel drive, weights, canopy for the driver and hydraulic pump takeoffs so we can use it for the apple cider press as well as ancillary equipment like log splitters etc... The key deciding factors were: we looked at John Deere and Kubota. The Deere dealership was brand-spanking-new and the Salesman treated us the same way that I had been treated whenever I bought a car from a dealer. The Kubota dealership was in an older building, we had to find Roger in his office and we went in and sat down (Jen had to drag a second chair into the office so she could sit down). Roger outlined a couple of options and quoted a price about $10K lower than Deere. (the butchers bill was around $30K) The other factor is that Jen's family owns a large farm in California and her dad buys a lot of tractors. For him, Kubota has the lowest hourly cost to operate considering maintenance, repair and initial price. As for the plumbing in the guest cabin/studio... Arrrghhh... The entire wall froze and this is the wall that contains the plumbing to the sink, toilet, water heater, shower and kitchen sink. It will be easier to rip out the sheetrock and redo everything than to try to sneak in a patch where needed. I'm deferring this until it's a bit warmer and things are a little less hectic. Blogging should resume full-force Monday (tomorrow). Dave
From the Braden Files comes a wonderful reminiscence regarding the US Silent Service: bq. Thanks to the remarkable record turned in by U.S. Submarine crews in World War II, by the time I came along, our pocket insignia of two dolphins and a smokeboat were widely recognized. We were the recipients of the awesome reputation those brave men left us. How many of you remember having someone tap you lightly on the arm followed by, bq. "Pardon me sir, are you a submariner?" bq. "Yes Ma'am..." bq. "My Uncle Joe was a submariner." bq. Within five minutes you learned that Uncle Joe was a really good guy...That he earned his first bike mowing lawns in some one horse town in Ohio, that no one at National Geographic ever heard of. He volunteered two days after the damn Nips hit Pearl. He rode some submarine that that didn't have a name that could be remembered. Uncle Joe sent her a silk kimono from Japan after the war. He returned a hometown hero, his yellowed photo is still on the wall of his Methodist Sunday School room and folks still set him up for free beers at the VFW. Somehow, it was very important for you to know that this lady was damn proud to be related to a submariner. Read the whole thing - it's on the par with Bill Whittle's essays. The Right Stuff!
The selection of the new Archbishop of Canterbury (Rowan Williams) took people a bit by surprise since he was -- at best -- as excellent an example of moonbat as ever walked down the aisle. From Melanie Phillips blog: bq. Is there no limit to the extent to which the Archbishop of Canterbury will suck up to terror? Yesterday's genocide bomb on the number 19 bus in Jerusalem, which killed ten people and wounded 44, was carried out by a Palestinian Authority policeman. On the same day, Dr Rowan Williams was at the end of his week's visit to the Holy Land. Did he tour the hospitals offering his condolences to the injured and bereaved? He did not. Did he visit the site of the bombing? He did not. Instead, this man of peace spent the day in Ramallah where he was presented with a medal by Yasser Arafat, chairman of the same Palestinian Authority. bq. But don't worry -- he deplored the loss of yet more lives from 'communities' where too much blood had already been spilt. Note that word 'communities'. Even when Jews are being blown up around him, he cannot bring himself to identify them as victims and the Palestinians as their murderers, but must offer equal sympathy to both sides. Nauseating. The man is a disgrace to his calling. Melanie is calling this one correctly - the use of deferment words - 'communities' instead of Israelis, 'blood spilt' instead of terrorism and he accepts a medal from the very community leader who is ringleading all the spilling of blood. This from the world leader of the Episcopal Church... Bleagh. This is supposed to be a position of moral high-ground and strength, not of pandering.
We were out of town on Friday and so I didn't get to mention VDH's Friday colum until now but here is the link and it is worth reading: bq. The Mind of Our Enemies Sorting out all the agendas in Iraq. bq. It is easy to be against the war now," boasts Howard Dean, as he goes on to describe Iraq as a hopeless quagmire. We are reminded daily not of the birth of the first consensual government in the history of the Arab world, but only that nine months after the military defeat of the Baathists, there is still resistance to the American reconstruction; and that the number of American soldiers, killed in major combat operations and afterward, has now surpassed 500. bq. Things in the Middle East are hard precisely because the stakes there are gargantuan. But so are the rewards: The sanctuaries and patrons of murderers, suicide bombers, and terrorists are shrinking with the destruction of the Taliban and Saddam Hussein. Autocracies like Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Syria are terrified of consensual government in Iraq precisely because they are aware of its implications for their own deprived citizens. bq. Meanwhile millions � from Libya and Pakistan to North Korea and Iran � watch intently. They wonder whether this new United States is about to run out of gas and return to the old appeasement of the last twenty years, when crafting nukes on the sly, blowing up Americans, and terrorizing innocents earned (at the worst) a televised remonstration expressing "concern" and "disappointment." On the other hand, wonder the world's opportunists, is this new � and often unpredictable � United States going to completely change the rules of engagement, to prevent the conditions that would lead to another September 11? And more: bq. To this end, we can remind the Iraqi nation that all three of its constituencies � the Kurds, the Sunnis, and the Shiite majority � have responsibilities to prevent one another from resurrecting tyranny. If the Sunnis wish to kill and abet killing, then they can be advised that de facto trisection will be their ultimate dividend, leaving them with little oil, without American peacekeepers, and bereft of reconstruction capital � and with many terrorists in their midst, and strong opponents to their north and south. bq. In turn, despite the dubious presence of Iranian clerics inside Iraq, Iran is � by negative example � of value to us. The Iraqi Shiites may holler about creating a religious paradise on earth, but we can point to the mullocratic chaos across the border and remind them where their rhetoric leads. The Kurds � who time and again have proven themselves the most supportive of American efforts � know that Turkey will not tolerate an independent Kurdistan on its borders. All three constituencies, then, have very real limitations on their political options � unless they desire a civil war, an intervention by Turkey, or the abandonment by and enmity of the United States. bq. Just because we are spending billions and are tied down in Afghanistan and Iraq does not mean that we must remain complacent with Syria and Iran. Each problem has its own unique solutions. If the two countries continue to aid and abet the insurrectionists, then we, in turn, can promote and fund dissident groups, isolate them diplomatically, and as a last resort contemplate military options that do not involve either invasion or occupation. Indeed, precisely because Syria and Iran see our difficulty in Iraq as being in their own interests, we must find creative ways to remind them that the killing of Americans and the destabilization of Iraq would be, ultimately, their own worst nightmare. bq. Perhaps both rogue states are beginning to grasp the new reality of the last two years: The United States no longer believes that every instance of the use of force is wrong, but in fact accepts that action is more than justified to end an autocratic regime with a history of frightening arsenals, subsidized terrorism, and a record of harming the interests of the United States. Remember that Musharraf's sudden investigation of Pakistani nuclear scientists, Libya's unexpected admission of nuclear proliferation, the removal of troops from Saudi Arabia, the growing Saudi dissident movements, and renewed Iranian unrest did not happen in a vacuum � and will cease the moment we return to the old way of appeasement and neglect. The New Yorker magazine has an article on Shiite Cleric Abdulaziz al-Hakim and his rise to power. I have not had the time to read the article yet and it is only available in paper -- not online so I'm not linking to it. I will post additional info when I have read it and if I find the text available online.
One of the colation member states is Canada and they are rotating their troops through Afghanistan and Iraq. The next group to go over is based out of Quebec and they are Francophones... According to Canada.Com, the call for French speaking Afghanis has been out for several months to no avail... Story here: bq. Canadian troops have spread the word around Kabul for the past two months that they need a few dozen local residents who can work in French with the next contingent of troops arriving from Quebec. bq. "We can't find any who speak French right now," said Lieut. Tim Button, the officer in charge of hiring the army's local interpreters. bq. "We've had one who showed up at the gate who claimed he spoke French, but when I spoke with him he didn't speak French at all. Not a word." Heh...